DNV GL has issued a report on fire incidents in Ro-Ro spaces to address growing safety concerns in this segment and provide guidance to shipowners. DNV GL’s “Fires on Ro-Ro decks” has examined fires within Ro-Ro spaces on Ro-Pax vessels, vehicle carriers and general Ro-Ro cargo vessels and has identified 35 such fires between 2005 and 2016. A previous DNV GL paper on Ro-Ro fires, published in 2005, had counted 25 fires in Ro-Ro spaces between 1990 and 2003.
“We would like to contribute with facts, as well as with our experience. Hopefully, this can be useful input to operators and legislators in order to focus on the relevant items and make the right decisions,” says Hans Eivind Siewers, Segment Director Passenger Ships & Ro-Ro at DNV GL – Maritime.
The DNV GL report shows that 18 of the incidents recorded between 2005 and 2016 happened on Ro-Pax vessels. In the same time frame, nine fires were reported on pure car carriers (PCC) and pure car and truck carriers (PCTC) and eight were reported on cargo Ro-Ro vessels.
“In all cases, the fires were caused by the cargo (cars, trucks etc.) or the power connection between the reefer unit and vessel,” explains Anders Tosseviken, Principal Approval Engineer Fire Safety & Life-Saving at DNV GL – Maritime.
To improve fire safety in daily operations, Anders Tosseviken recommends: “Owners and operators should have a clear policy on what cargo and operations they accept in Ro-Ro spaces. Cargo should be screened, and old and towed second-hand vehicles in particular should be carefully checked before being allowed on board.” A policy on reefer units also needs to be available, and these units should, if possible, be placed in dedicated areas such as weather decks, and monitored by CCTV (closed-circuit television). Additionally, the access to Ro-Ro spaces, including open Ro-Ro spaces, should be restricted during voyages.
Comprehensive crew training and clearly defined procedures for reacting to fire incidents are also necessary to ensure that personnel are able to release fixed fire-extinguishing systems as quickly as possible. Realistic training on the use of the fixed fire extinguishing system should be implemented with company-defined goals for release times (for instance three minutes for deluge systems and 15 minutes for CO2 systems). Fire safety policies should also include a plan on how to handle vehicles which use alternative fuels.
To enhance the fire safety of newbuildings with open Ro-Ro spaces, the location of lifeboats and other life-saving equipment and the location of air intakes for main and emergency power need to be carefully considered. Power circuits serving reefer units should be equipped with ground fault detection systems which trigger an alarm in a manned control station.
DNV GL also offers the voluntary class notation F-AMC, whereby owners can demonstrate that they have enhanced the reliability of their fixed fire-extinguishing systems, improved the fire detection and CCTV systems, have additional firefighters’ outfits available and better UHF/VHF coverage.