Insurer The Swedish Club has reported that 28 engineoom fires over a 10 year period cost shipowners an average of US$1.85M, more than any other hull and machinery (H&M) claim.
The club said that this figure, compared to the average H&M claim between 2008 and 2017 of US$320,000, could have been mitigated if ship crews responded to fires in a timely manner. Senior technical advisor Peter Stålberg noted that a “swift and effective” response could cut the cost of a fire from around US$3M to less than US$200,000.
“I have seen cases where delaying the response or failing to operate the ﬁre extinguishing system properly has allowed the ﬁre to intensify and spread, causing severe damage and cost in excess of US$3M,” Mr Stålberg said.
One of the main causes of engineroom fires is lubricant or fuel mist spraying onto hot surfaces and igniting. Under the SOLAS convention, all oil pipes in enginerooms must be screened and ﬂanges protected so that leaks will not spray onto hot surfaces. All vessels are required to have double containment piping for high pressure oil piping and any surface with a temperature higher than 220°C must be thermally insulated.
Mr Stålberg said: “At newbuild the insulation of the exhaust pipe system, including the turbo-chargers, is normally in good condition. Over time, however, when overhauling engine room machinery and removing or reﬁtting exhaust pipes, the insulation will deteriorate. An exhaust pipe system insulated to 95% is not good enough. It must be 100% intact, always.”
Using three case studies, the club’s report highlights other ways in which operators can minimise fire damage. These include ensuring that passive safety devices such as ﬁre dampers and quick closing valves are in good condition and operational; having the fixed fire-fighting system serviced regularly and making sure that release instructions are clear; and always investigating alarms thoroughly and taking prompt action before clearing the alarm status.