In 2019, four fire incidents occurred onboard RMI-registered yachts that resulted in the total constructive loss of the vessel, the Republic of the Marshall Islands Administrator informed, sharing key areas of concern and best practices.
Of the reported incidents, two occurred while the yacht was moored, one occurred while it was underway, and one while it was in the shipyard. There were no deaths or injuries as a result of any of these fires.
Areas of concern
Although causes of the incidents are different, the RMI investigation findings highlight three major areas of concern:
- fire prevention;
- ensuring fire detection and extinguishing systems are fully functional; and
- ensuring yacht crews are prepared to respond to a fire.
Effective fire prevention requires constant attention. Based on the Administrator’s marine safety investigations, fire risks can be grouped into three different areas:
- Machinery: leaks in fuel, lube and hydraulic oil systems and inadequate or poorly maintained insulation on exhaust systems;
- Electrical systems: loose electrical connections, deteriorated wire insulation, improper repairs or modifications of electrical wiring and equipment, and overloaded electrical circuits; and
- Human activities: leaving open flames such as grills, smoking materials, and candles unattended; leaving electrical devices unattended while being charged, and charging too many devices.
Testing and maintenance
Ensuring fire detection and extinguishing systems are fully functional requires regular testing and maintenance of these systems. This includes:
- testing fire detectors and alarms according to the manufacturer’s procedures and at intervals specified by the manufacturer;
- testing ventilation shutdowns, including those for the galley, to ensure that they are operational and that the ventilation dampers close completely (typically once a month);
- having portable fire extinguishers and fixed firefighting systems inspected and serviced according to the manufacturer’s procedures by a qualified service technician;
- testing installed fire pumps, including verifying their discharge pressure (typically once a month); and
- pressure testing fire hoses annually.
See also: Emergency Procedures: Fire onboard
Structural fire protection
Structural fire protection must be maintained as required by the relevant regulations. This is to ensure that, in the event of a fire, the source will be contained to the extent possible, and that the yacht maintains its structural integrity for the longest period possible.
Owners, managers, and Captains should ensure that:
- piping and wire penetrations of bulkhead and decks are properly sealed to prevent the passage of smoke;
- bulkhead penetrations, boundary insulations, and such are not modified unless approved by the Administrator; and
- refit or alterations on the yacht is carried out under supervision of an Appointed Representative or Classification Society surveyor.
Ensuring yacht crews are prepared to quickly and properly respond to a fire without endangering their own or guests’ safety requires that all crew members:
- are familiar with the location and operation of the yacht’s firefighting equipment;
- know how to respond, including where to direct guests to muster, when a fire alarm is activated;
- receive training on how to fight different types of fires and participate in regular fire drills; and
- participate in regularly scheduled fire drills that are conducted in different spaces, such as the galley, engine room, guest cabins, saloon, etc.
Additional issues that have been identified during the Administrator’s marine safety investigations include:
- the need to ensure that emergency escapes are clearly marked and not obstructed by furnishings, hangings, etc.; and
- that guests receive safety orientations when they arrive on board regarding fire prevention, where they should go in the event of a fire alarm, and the location of fire escapes in common spaces as well as their cabin.
RMI strongly recommends that yacht owners, managers, and captains:
- review and revise where necessary their safety management systems (SMS), including any mini SMS, and preventative maintenance systems to ensure that they address the issues covered in this Advisory; and
- take the contents of this Advisory into account during the operation and maintenance of their yacht.
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