By retrofitting offshore vessels with firefighting equipment, owners can open up new market opportunities
While some OSVs come with firefighting capabilities and are accordingly classed as ‘FF capable’, many port states still insist that FiFi class vessels should be deployed for external firefighting on offshore installations.
It makes sense then, given some 1,393 OSVs are laid up globally according to VesselsValue, to use this time to upgrade the vessels with FiFi capabilities.
Once equipped with firefighting systems as per class requirements, these vessels can serve in the FiFi class vessel market.
“We are seeing more demand for such retrofits and rebuilding,” says Fire Fighting Systems (FFS) sales director for marine, Espen Sveberg. Based in Moss, Norway, FFS has been a leading designer of firefighting equipment to the marine industry since 1998, supplying pumps with drivers, gearboxes, fire water monitors, foam mixers, deluge systems, remote control systems and other firefighting-related equipment.
While retrofits are not new, they are normally done on vessels that have been prepared for a later FiFi installation, says Mr Sveberg. Such vessels are often built with a sea chest to feed water for the pumps, inlet and foundation for the pump, gearbox and, in some cases, valves and piping as well.
Retrofits can be performed on vessels that are not prepared for FiFi, but the conversion is more costly, he says. Often, Mr Sveberg notes, the conversions have to be performed quickly, minimising a vessel’s downtime. “Retrofits are often rush jobs since very little time is available before the vessel enters a new charter. Hence, delivery time is a key factor for the selection of a FiFi vendor and shipyard,” he adds.
Some 5% of FiFi vessels are retrofits and most yards can handle this kind of conversion.
Class specifies rules for vessels that are intended to be primarily engaged in firefighting operations on offshore installations. The vessel’s firefighting capabilities, its stability and its ability to maintain station while firefighting monitors are in full operation, and the degree of the vessel’s self-protection against external fires, are dealt with in the rules. Vessels not in full compliance with these rules or not specifically built for the service intended to be covered by these rules, but which have some firefighting capability in addition to their regular service, may be designated as ‘FF capable’.
There are three categories of FiFi classifications, each of which signifies the number of monitors, their capacity and throw, pump capacity, foam requirements, etc. In the case of FiFi class 1, a vessel must have a minimum of two firefighting monitors capable of throwing water 120 m from the vessel to a height of 45 m, along with one or two fire pumps. An OSV with a FiFi 2 class notation has two to four monitors, with a minimum throw length of 150 m and height of 70 m, with two to four fire pumps. A FiFi 3 class vessel must have three to four monitors with a throw length of 180 m and two to four fire pumps. Monitors are controlled from the wheelhouse.
ABS says FiFi 1 needs a permanently installed water spray system; FiFi 2 and 3 are expected to have mobile, high expansion foam generators in addition to water monitors. FiFi 3 is to have two fixed, low-expansion foam monitors in addition to the required water monitors.
FiFi 1 are typically first responders and FiFi 2 and 3 are for longer-term engagement. “The equipment varies accordingly,” says Mr Sveberg. “The FiFi class notation does not mean any change of other class notifications in case of a retrofit, provided there are no changes to other systems or equipment. However, this must always be confirmed by the class society,” he adds.
He says a separate prime mover would not be required if the OSV has a power take-off (PTO) option, in which the main engine provides power for propulsion as well as other loads. This is the most cost-effective solution as the vessel needs to be in “station keeping mode” during firefighting. But if no PTO option is installed, then a vessel may require separate diesel engines, two 700 kW for FiFi 1 or two 1,600 kW for FiFi 2. For FiFi 1, the prime mover, along with the controls and auxiliaries, can be packaged and installed on deck, he says.
Available power is critical for a vessel to conduct firefighting operations safely. FiFi class rules have strict requirements for how much power is available for manoeuvring when firefighting is ongoing. Typically, 20% of total engine power must always be available for station keeping and manoeuvring when the ship is conducting firefighting operations. If this requirement is not fulfilled, Mr Sveberg cautions, there could be a problem conducting safe firefighting operations.
Another key aspect is the reaction force from the monitors. The vessel should have enough propulsive power so that the reaction force is not greater than 80% of propulsive power, as per ABS rules. If the reaction force as a percentage of propulsive power exceeds 80%, then an alarm may be sounded. Automatic reduction of power action at 100% of available propulsion power will be required to prevent sudden or complete loss of power due to power overload. The reaction force of monitors is calculated for each individual vessel so as to ensure that station keeping is confirmed according to class.
Independent sea suction will need to be provided for each fire pump; according to ABS, this should be low sea suction. “The sea inlet for the FiFi pumps must follow certain requirements for dimension to secure sufficient flow and water velocity,” says Mr Sveberg. “Normally, the maximum is 2 m/sec and the area of seaside inlet holes should be at least two times the area of pump inlet,” he explains.
Among the equipment that might be fitted by the owner for firefighting operations is an air compressor to provide air for the self-contained breathing apparatuses for the responders. Shipyards can also retrofit a helicopter platform on a vessel to enhance its firefighting capabilities. When retrofitting helipads, however, owners should be careful that the structures do not interfere with firefighting operations.
After the retrofit, such ships can do double duty, says Mr Sveberg. “The FiFi is in no conflict with other abilities of the ship and is always additional to other notations,” he adds.