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Dealing with Fires at Sea on a Naval Vessel

POA(Phot) Owen King, Crown Copyright ©

Hamburg, 07.10.2021: Fires at Sea, on whatever vessel, is met with fear and apprehension. Fear, due to the two choices, stay onboard or leave the vessel; not an option when you are many miles from land. Apprehension, because of the unknown nature of a fire: toxicity, hazardous materials or even the thought of being trapped. Although these are concerns for land-based fires, in most cases once building occupants have been evacuated the risks are significantly reduced. However, evacuation may not be an preferred option on a ship, especially when far from land or in inclement weather. Buildings also don’t typically have ammunition magazines, fuel tanks or hazardous materials in close proximity to living spaces and nicely encapsulated within a metal box.

Therefore, fires (and smoke) are taken very seriously by Ships Staff. With personnel highly trained to ensure any fire, however small, is contained quickly, safely and without loss of life or the ship.

Training isn’t the only important factor and the equipment and systems fitted onboard need to contend with a large variety of situations and threats. A fire in an accommodation area will need to be dealt with very differently from one in a machinery space or galley. The last 2 spaces have the potential to escalate a fire very quickly and therefore tend to have fixed, dedicated equipment.

Fires also do not respect location and will, if allowed to develop, use the forces of conduction, convection and radiation to increase its consequence and effect. Using the metal structure, ventilation ductwork, cable/pipe penetrations and nearby flammable material all assisting its spread.

A by-product of fire is smoke and with it the ability to disorientate and confuse Ships Staff. Smoke can travel significant distances from the seat of a fire increasing the potential of even small fires. To reduce the effects of smoke in a ship, controlled isolation of compartments and passageways and (where access is required) the use of smoke curtains. Machinery Space exhaust fans can also be used to remove large volumes of smoke from the ship and an effective method of smoke control.

Naval Platforms also operate both above the surface and below it. Submarines are unique and designed to maintain a silent presence. A Submarine, or Boat, may not wish to return to the surface in the event of a fire as it may compromise its position. A fire will also consume the limited supplies of breathable air and replace these with toxic gases which will further compromise the performance of the crew and Boat. Therefore, methods are required which can quickly flood an affected space and extinguish a fire. Systems for certain spaces can use harmless inert gases, such as nitrogen (N2). These systems quickly smother any fire maintaining the capability and efficiency of the Boat.

In the past there have been marine firefighting systems which have used ozone depleting gases. Whilst excellent at extinguishing fires, these type of gases have had a profound effect on our environment. The Halon range of gases are typical examples of firefighting gases which are being withdrawn from service on environmental grounds.

In its place are more environmentally acceptable gases, such as CO2. However, there is risk to life in certain applications from CO2 concentration. In response the proprietary HyFEx® firefighting system has been developed for the German Navy and a number of export customers around the World. The HyFEx® firefighting system is a seawater-based solution, using an AFFF addition, specially designed for naval surface vessels. The system provides a high degree of effectiveness and capability.

As well as HyFEx®, Fire Fighting water mist systems are available which use both High and Low pressure water systems. These solutions are now being fitted on a wide range of naval and specialist marine platforms.

UK MOD © Crown copyright 2021

ENGIE Axima Marine Fire Fighting Systems

ENGIE Axima Marine are able to offer Design, expert advice and solutions for firefighting systems on all types of marine platforms.

The ENGIE AXIMA firefighting systems are Best in Class, designed to work in harmony with the ENGIE AXIMA HVAC systems, ensuring any fire is effectively contained.

ENGIE AXIMA are able to develop systems for high risk areas and spaces where fixed firefighting requirements have been identified.

Systems are designed, manufactured, tested and certified to a range of International Classification Societies, all undertaken in-house. Including meeting any shock compliance or vibration levels, which maybe required.

Systems are available that have been designed and fitted to both above surface, below surface, and specialist platforms, such as those used for the Offshore Oil & Gas sector. ENGIE AXIMA also offers firefighting solutions designed for the marine leisure industry, such as Cruise Liners.

Due to lean manning on naval vessels fixed fire protection is likely to be specified more regularly. Previously only vital areas such as Machinery Spaces, Aircraft Hangars and Galleys were protected. The modern marine platform now relies on critical technology located in Server Rooms and with the reduction in crew numbers a quick, effective, remotely operated solution is now available.

ENGIE AXIMA offer firefighting solutions using High-Pressure and Low-Pressure water mist systems; for smaller platforms a low-pressure system has a significant cost advantages, whilst on larger platforms a high-pressure water mist system would be the preferred option.

Along with the ENGIE Axima propriety HyFEx® system and water-based systems, other fixed gas firefighting systems are available such as CO2, NOVEC 1230 and the N2 Nitrogen Flood system. The latter ideal for use on submarines.

For ships galleys the ENGIE AXIMA KiFEx® system is a turnkey in-service solution, developed in cooperation with the German Navy, providing an effective fire suppressant for Deep Fat Fryers, Cooking Ranges, Galley Hoods and Exhaust Ducts.

All of the above equipment’s and systems are designed, manufactured and supported by ENGIE AXIMA. The systems provided are developed by Designers, knowledgeable, experienced and who understand the problems associated with firefighting in a marine environment.

ENGIE AXIMA are able to assume full control of the requirement, including design, in-house testing, manufacture, installation and commissioning, all supported through the life of the platform. As with all the Fire Fighting systems and equipment, a comprehensive training package is available for First in Class platforms, Train the Trainer and Refresher courses as required by the customer.

The firefighting systems developed by ENGIE AXIMA are designed to meet both existing and future environmental requirements

To understand more about the ENGIE Axima Marine firefighting systems please go to the website here where examples of the systems available are shown along with brochures and supporting documentation.

(Written by Russ Tidbury, Senior Commercial Director, ENGIE Axima Marine (UK) - Both pictures are under Open Government Licence (nationalarchives.gov.uk)

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