Container firefighting solution brought to the market by Viking Life-Saving Equipment delivers safe, flexible and easy-to-use technique to address an issue that can cost lives as well as extensive cargo losses
An alarming rise in the number of container fires at sea recently saw the International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) urge stakeholders to encourage IMO to strengthen fire protection and review firefighting equipment on existing container ships.
The call followed a spate of high-profile fires in quick succession on some of the largest container ships afloat, but the run of incidents is not unusual. TT Club suggests that a major container ship fire at sea occurs on average every 60 days.
“These perilous incidents not only frequently cost lives, millions of dollars in cargo losses and ship damage, but also significant delays in cargo supply chains amounting to major disruption across numerous industries,” the mutual insurance association says.
While one area for industry concern is the misdeclaration of flammable goods, the continuing growth in container vessel sizes means that another is the safety of ships and seafarers, especially when the container on fire is high up in the stack. When firefighting is conducted from deck level, even hoses concentrated on the blaze will only be dowsing the container and its surroundings; this will not stop materials inside from continuing to burn. As well as ineffective, the approach can be dangerous and has the potential to destroy cargo in its own right.
Today, with boxes stacked across more rows and at greater heights above deck than ever before, the very largest container ships are limited in terms of the ports where they can call, making it more critical than ever that crews can deal safely and effectively with container fires in the stack.
One of the leading ship management companies in the world recently joined a major container shipowner, among the first to equip its fleet with the HydroPen™, the ground-breaking container firefighting solution exclusively available from Viking Life-Saving Equipment. Developed by Rosenby Engineering and distributed worldwide by Viking, HydroPen is a unique drilling and spraying machine that allows deck crew to fight fires successfully high up in the stack.
After being attached to ship’s existing hoses, the HydroPen unit is raised to the doors of the burning container by a single crew member using a telescopic lift. Powered by the ship’s available pressurised water alone, the HydroPen drills through the container door before automatically switching to spray mode to extinguish the fire at source. The system is compatible with water, foam or C02, depending on the nature of the fire.
The latest order covers over 40 vessels with two systems for each – one to be positioned astern and the other towards the bow to enable rapid response. Although this is not the first contract to specify HydroPen – a solution which has attracted strong interest from regulators, classification societies and owners. It recently won the prestigious Safety at Sea Award in the Best Safety Product of the Year – firefighting category.
The technology has also undergone a series of in-service trials, where it has been found to be straightforward, efficient and flexible to use with minimal training, for elevated containers and – using the HydroLock accessory – for containers in cargo holds.
Feedback from these trials has consistently focused on the system’s ease of use: in fact, after a single training session given during installation, one HydroPen system under trial was even called into action to deal successfully with a real container fire.
Viking Life-Saving Equipment continuously seeks to offer the very latest technologies to its maritime customers and in HydroPen believes it has brought a solution to market that will quickly become a ‘must-have’ to address a serious and widespread issue.