Fire Protection, fire detection and fire extinction
Fire can be devastating on a ship - particularly on a passenger ship, where large numbers of people may need to be evacuated, or on a ship carrying inflammable cargo, with serious risks to crewmembers or to ports and harbours.
On 1 July 2002, a comprehensive new set of requirements for fire protection, fire detection and fire extinction on board ships entered into force as a new revised Chapter II-2 of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), 1974, as amended, incorporating technological advances in fire detection and extinction as well as lessons learned from fire incidents over the years.
The regulations are designed to ensure that fires are first of all prevented from occurring - for example by making sure that materials such as carpets and wall coverings are strictly controlled to reduce the fire risk; secondly, that any fires are rapidly detected; and thirdly; that any fire is contained and extinguished. Designing ships to ensure easy evacuation routes for crew and passengers are a key element of the chapter.
of SOLAS fire protection requirements
The first fire protection requirements for international shipping were developed as part of the 1914 SOLAS Convention, which was developed in response to the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. Although the 1914 SOLAS Convention was prevented from coming into force due to World War I, it did contain basic fire safety requirements which were later carried over to the 1929 SOLAS Convention.
After the adoption of the 1929 SOLAS Convention, many lessons were learned about the safety of shipping in general, including fire protection, which led to the adoption of the 1948 SOLAS Convention. In 1934, a fire aboard the passenger ship Morro Castle caused 134 casualties. The investigation of the Morro Castle fire, and the lessons learned from it, played a major part in the development of the non-combustible construction regulations which today form the basis of the fire safety regulations for passengers ships. In addition, many advances in maritime technology were made during World War II and subsequently incorporated into the 1948 SOLAS Convention. As a result, a greater emphasis was placed on fire safety aboard ships and this was demonstrated by the development of three new parts (parts D, E and F) being added to chapter II of the 1948 SOLAS Convention which were exclusively dedicated to fire safety. In addition, the SOLAS 1948 requirements applied to both passenger ships and cargo ships.
The 1948 SOLAS Convention established three methods of construction for passenger ships and basic fire protection requirements for cargo ships. The 1948 SOLAS Convention was eventually updated with the 1960 SOLAS Convention. The most significant change incorporated into the 1960 SOLAS Convention, related to fire safety, was the application of certain passenger ship fire safety requirements to cargo ships.
While the SOLAS conventions of 1914, 1929, 1948 and 1960 did contain fire safety requirements, they proved inadequate for passenger ships. In the 1960’s, a series of fires aboard international passengers ships highlighted many problems and, as a result, many changes were incorporated into the 1974 SOLAS Convention. In the 1974 Convention (which came into effect in 1980 and is still in force today, as amended) separated the fire requiements into a separate chapter: SOLAS chapter II (Construction) of the 1960 SOLAS Convention was divided into two new chapters: chapter II-1 on Construction - Structure, subdivision and stability, machinery and electrical requirements, and chapter II-2 on Construction - Fire protection, fire detection and fire extinction.
The 1974 SOLAS required all new passenger ships to be built of non-combustible materials and to have either a fixed fire sprinkler system or fixed fire detection system installed. Requirements for cargo ships were also updated with special regulations for specific types of cargo ships such as tankers.
The 1981 Amendments,
which entered into force on 1 September 1984, completely revised SOLAS chapter
II-2. The amendments included the requirements of resolutions A.327(IX) Recommendation
concerning fire safety requirements for cargo ships(Incorporated in
In 1990, a fire aboard the Scandinavian Star passenger ship left 158 persons dead. The incident raised a number of issues relating to fire protection and evacuation.
In December 1992, IMO adopted a comprehensive set of fire safety amendments, applicable to both new and existing passenger ships. The amendments required the installation of the latest fire safety features applicable to any modern hotel such as automatic sprinkler and smoke detection systems, and the upgrading of fire safety bulkheads to non-combustible materials and improved methods for assisting escaping persons, such as use of low location lighting.
Also in 1992, the Sub-Committee on Fire Protection agreed to undertake a comprehensive revision of SOLAS chapter II-2 as it was felt that the adoption, over a number years, of various sets of amendments, made the chapter difficult to use and implement. Technological advancements and lessons learned from accidents, since the chapter’s last revision in 1981, required new provisions to be added and for existing requirements to be modified. However, the outcome of this eight year effort resulted in more than just a “user-friendly” amalgamation of the latest amendments, but an entirely new structure for SOLAS chapter II-2 which will better accommodate the way port and flag States and ship designers deal with fire safety issues in the future.
In particular, the existing chapter had many vague phrases such as “to the satisfaction of the Administration” or “a means shall be provided”. In fact, there were over 200 such phrases used throughout the chapter. In addition, the existing chapter had no support structure to accommodate novel designs and features and there was little focus on the human element, an issue which is now receiving a great deal of attention given that 80% maritime casualties are attributed to human factors.
The 1996 amendments to SOLAS chapter II-2 - which entered into force in 1998 - included changes to the general introduction, Part B (fire safety measures for passenger ships), Part C (fire safety measures for cargo ships) and Part D (fire safety measures for tankers).
A new International Code for the Application of Fire Test Procedures was also developed and made mandatory on 1 July 1998. The Code is for use by Administrations when approving products for installation in ships flying their flag.
Code provides international requirements for laboratory testing, type approval
and fire test procedures for the:
In December 2000, IMO adopted a completely revised SOLAS chapter II-2, which entered into force on 1 July 2002.
The new structure focuses on the "fire scenario process" rather than on ship type, as the previous SOLAS chapter II-2 was structured. Thus, the regulations start with prevention, detection, and suppression following all the way through to escape. In addition, to make the revised SOLAS chapter II-2 more user-friendly, specific system-related technical requirements have been moved to the new International Fire Safety Systems Code and each regulation has a purpose statement and functional requirements to assist port and flag States.
The revised SOLAS chapter II-2 has a new part E that deals exclusively with human element matters such as training, drills and maintenance issues and a new part F that sets out a methodology for approving alternative (or novel) designs and arrangements.
Fire Safety Systems (FSS) Code
The purpose of the FSS Code is therefore to provide international standards for fire safety systems required by revised SOLAS chapter II-2, under which it is made mandatory. The FSS Code consists of 15 chapters, each addressing specific systems and arrangements, except for chapter I which contains a several definitions and also general requirements for approval of alternative designs and toxic extinguishing media.
of Chapter II-2 to existing ships
CONSTRUCTION – FIRE PROTECTION, FIRE DECTION AND FIRE EXTINCTION
Entry into force: 1 July 2002
PART A - GENERAL
Regulation 1 - Application - The chapter applies to ships built on or after 1 July 2002. Ships constructed before that date should comply with the chapter in force prior to 1 July 2002, however there are some requirements for existing ships in the revised chapter.
Regulation 2 - Fire safety objectives and functional requirements – Provides the fire safety objectives and functional requirements for the chapter.
Regulation 3 - Definitions - Gives definitions of terms used in the chapter.
PART B - PREVENTION OF FIRE AND EXPLOSIONRegulation 4 - Probability of ignition - The purpose of this regulation is to prevent the ignition of combustible materials or flammable liquids.
Regulation 5 - Fire growth potential - The purpose of this regulation is to limit the fire growth potential in every space of the ship.Regulation 6 - Smoke generation potential and toxicity - The purpose of this regulation is to reduce the hazard to life from smoke and toxic products generated during a fire in spaces where persons normally work or live.
PART C- SUPPRESSION OF FIRERegulation 7 - Detection and alarm - The purpose of this regulation is to detect a fire in the space of origin and to provide for alarm for safe escape and fire-fighting activities.
Regulation 8 - Control of smoke spread - The purpose of this regulation is to control the spread of smoke in order to minimize the hazards from smoke.
Regulation 9 - Containment of fire - The purpose of this regulation is to contain a fire in the space of origin.
Regulation 10 - Fire fighting - The purpose of this regulation is to suppress and swiftly extinguish a fire in the space of origin.
Regulation 11 - Structural integrity - The purpose of this regulation is to maintain structural integrity of the ship preventing partial or whole collapse of the ship structures due to strength deterioration by heat.
PART D - ESCAPE
Regulation 12 - Notification of crew and passengers - The purpose of this regulation is to notify crew and passengers of a fire for safe evacuation.
Regulation 13 - Means of escape -The purpose of this regulation is to provide means of escape so that persons onboard can safely and swiftly escape to the lifeboat and liferaft embarkation deck.
PART E - OPERATIONAL REQUIREMENTS
Regulation 14 - Operational readiness and maintenance - The purpose of this regulation is to maintain and monitor the effectiveness of the fire safety measures the ship is provided with.
Regulation 15 - Instructions, onboard training and drills -The purpose of this regulation is to mitigate the consequences of fire by means of proper instructions for training and drills for persons onboard responsible for carrying out ship procedures under emergency conditions.Regulation 16 – Operations -The purpose of this regulation is to provide information and instructions for proper ship and cargo handling operations in relation to fire safety.
PART F - ALTERNATIVE DESIGN AND ARRANGEMENTSRegulation 17 - Alternative design and arrangements - The purpose of this regulation is to provide a methodology for approving alternative design and arrangements for fire safety.
PART G - SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS
Regulation 18 - Helicopter facilities - The purpose of this regulation is to provide additional measures in order to address the fire safety objectives of this chapter for ships fitted with special facilities for helicopters.
Regulation 19 - Carriage of dangerous goods - The purpose of this regulation is to provide additional safety measures in order to address the fire safety objectives of this chapter for ships carrying dangerous goods.Regulation 20 - Protection of vehicle, special category and ro-ro spaces - The purpose of this regulation is to provide additional safety measures in order to address the fire safety objectives of this chapter for ships fitted with vehicle, special category and ro-ro spaces.
Chapter 1 General
Chapter 2 International shore connections
Chapter 3 Personnel protection
Chapter 4 Fire extinguishers
Chapter 5 Fixed gas fire-extinguishing systems
Chapter 6 Fixed foam fire-extinguishing systems
Chapter 7 Fixed pressure water-spraying and water-mist fire-extinguishing systems
Chapter 8 Automatic sprinkler, fire detection and fire alarm systems
Chapter 9 Fixed fire detection and fire alarm systems
Chapter 10 Sample extraction smoke detection systems
Chapter 11 Low-location lighting systems
Chapter 12 Fixed emergency fire pumps
Chapter 13 Arrangement of means of escape
Chapter 14 Fixed deck foam systems
Chapter 15 Inert gas systems
IMO annually issues a circular containing a list of halon banking and reception facilities, to facilitate the deposit of decommissioned halons or the purchase of recycled halons.
The following publications are available from IMO: