Preventing and tackling on-board fires to keep passengers safe at sea

Tackling onboard fires with technology solutions and high-level training strategies dominated day 1 of the main 2-day Passenger Ship Safety meeting in Southampton. Chaired by Andrew Winbow , Former Assistant Secretary-General and Director, Maritime Safety Division, International Maritime Organization (IMO), industry experts were joined by operators, first response, maritime and government agencies uniting the community for the 2nd year in a row.

The day began with a fascinating discussion led by Katy Ware, Director of Maritime Safety and Standards, MCA, drawing attention to the 10-year development of passenger ship safety regulations related to.  In response to the need for international agreement on issues surrounding stability standards (index ‘R’), the audience learnt an alternative proposal had been developed which was to be considered by IMO at an upcoming meeting of the MSC.

Cyber security routinely dominates mainstream news and the audience were taken on a journey into this realm by Phil Tinsley of BIMCO. The discussion touched on cyber security industry guidelines for ships that had recently been developed and adopted by IMO.  The audience learnt various system vulnerabilities and attention was drawn to the threat caused by personnel on board passenger ships (both vindictive crew members and passengers).

Harry Klootwijk from Falck Safety Services demonstrated to the community gathered in Southampton  the wide extent of Falck training services, including their largest facility in Rotterdam.  Knowledge and expertise from their 24/7 Global emergency response team is routinely fed into training programmes with wide benefits to both seafarers and the industry.

A fascinating presentation by Sifis Papageorgiou presented the results of an EMSA research study into fires on ro-ro passenger ships with its analysis demonstrating that there is statistically likely to be a serious incident every other year, as well as many less serious events that are dealt with by the equipment readily available on board. A key fact which the audience took away was how 64% of fires had an electrical source and solutions to counter the various risks were presented for wider consideration.

This was followed by Hans Corneliusson, Fleet Manager from Stena Line describing the Stena safety project which had resulted in ’10 commandments’ to be followed to reduce the risk of fires on board, including prevention, early detection and fast response.

Tonje Froystad Garvik from Autronica then provided an outline of an integrated safety and emergency management system aimed at meeting the safe return to port concept.  The remote monitoring of diverse systems (CCTV, door locking, elevators, etc.) was demonstrated and the benefits to be gained from people tracking and the use of sophisticated analytics tools.

The last presentation of the day returned to the issue of ro-ro passenger ship safety as Grant Laversuch, Head of Safety Management, P&O Ferries, described the typical operational constraints of short sea ferries (lack of information, quick turnaround, old cars, turn-up-and-go freight, etc.) and the high risk of fires in vehicles on vehicle decks – electrical equipment and battery fires particularly.  He also drew attention to the problems of disembarking passengers from passenger spaces above vehicle decks, particularly in an emergency situation.

The day ended with the networking reception kindly provided by the Survitec Group.

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