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Fire is the rapid oxidation of a material in the exothermic chemical process of

combustion, releasing heat, light, and various reaction products. The flame is the visible portion
of the fire. If hot enough, the gases may become ionized to produce plasma. Depending on the
substances alight, and any impurities outside, the color of the flame and the fire's intensity will
be different. (1)

A fire on a ship is one of the most dangerous incidents which can happen on board. If the
fire is detected in good time, the crew can prevent larger damage by taking immediate measures
– such as fighting the fire. If the fire has already spread, professional aid is absolutely needed,
which can be rendered via helicopter or by ship. (2)

This course is part of the mandatory Basic Safety Training and instruction requirements
for all seafarers under Regulation VIII, Section A-VIII of the 1978 Standards of Training,
Certification and Watchkeeping for seafarer or STCW Convention, as mended in 1995. It covers
the specified standard of training recommended in Annex I of the IMO Assembly Resolution A.
437 CXII and the required competence set out in Table A-VII2 of the STCW code.(1)

The problem of fire prevention and firefighting become even more acute once a vessel
leaves port. Then rough seas navigation difficulties may also increase the hazards.((2)

Some fires may be purely accidental and others may be caused by circumstances beyond
control. Like –carelessness and irresponsible acts. Some of the most common cause of fire is-
careless smoking and faulty electric circuits.(2)

Fire Prevention on board a ship

Some countries have the funding and resources to assist a ship in trouble. A professional
response demands a great deal of preplanning by the Fire Department, thus poorer countries may
not have the funding to set up an Emergency response team for offshore work. It is not straight
forward to set up a team for ship firefighting, the selection of suitable personnel, training of those
personnel not just for ship firefighting, but also helicopter operations and sea survival will need
to be funded, in most cases separately to local funding arrangements. The funding is very often a
grey area and the retrieval of costs involved in fighting fires can be difficult due to the
complexities of salvage claims. Shore based firefighters offer some obvious advantages over a
ship’s crew, a greater understanding and experience in fire and dealing with hazardous materials.
Professional fire team trains regular in some cases every day and regularly performs exercises,
which demand the mobilization of a large amount of resources. Early notification is essential in
order that the shore-based service can assess the situation and plan a safe approach. The
reluctance to call early for help whatever the reason, be it company policy, salvage claims or just
lack of understanding of what is available, may incur serious delays which will affect the success
of the operation. (2)

Before boarding, the senior fire officer will carry out a dynamic risk assessment, to
ensure the safety of the team. Safe access and escape routes, together with the risks on board are
their main concerns. Liaison with shore based services once on board the officer will need to be
given a full briefing by the ship’s command, using the ship’s fire safety plan. A situation report
will be sent to the fire departments control center giving the land-based command indications to
the size of the task and the resources that need to be organized. Although the shore-based team
has a greater knowledge about firefighting, the sea conditions, knowledge of stability, layout of
the ship, and the equipment on board will disadvantage them. Liaison between both parties will
help to overcome the difficulties. A ship fire to a land based fire fighter is a hostile environment,
not just the because of the difficulties in attacking, but also the team’s involvement at sea means
a fire in the advanced stages. (2)

The risk of fire, explosion and leakages are high, therefore the design of the platform,
detection equipment, efficient firefighting facilities, together with a well-trained organization are
an absolute necessity to prevent a disaster. The threat of fire must be detected as early as
possible, from which well-rehearsed actions are implemented, including shut down of
production, initiating manually or automatically fixed fire protection and intervention by fire
team to prevent the situation from worsening.(2)

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