Industry’s first class notation to focus on engine-room fire prevention

Hundreds of people were evacuated from the Nordlys of the Hurtigruten company, on September 15, 2011 after the fire broke out in the engine room, injuring two people. Credit: AFP/Getty Images

Classification society DNV GL has introduced the industry’s first fire prevention class notation F(M-P), which focusses not only on fire prevention systems on board a vessel, but also on the processes and people, to enhance the main safety barriers and prevent fires in machinery spaces.

The desire to work towards a zero-fire engine room has led to Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (RCL), Wärtsilä, and DNV GL to work together through a joint industry project to improve engine room fire prevention. Since 2016, the trio have worked with stakeholders across the whole industry to collect data, analyse the key risks, and develop safety barriers to manage the most significant risk factors. Research included identifying key areas for preventing fires in engine rooms based on incident analysis, analysing feedback from surveyors, and using best practices from the industry.

RCL’s Navigator of the Seas is the first ship to feature the new F(M-P) notation. Following the launch of the class notation and its subsequent use on the vessel, RCL has launched a programme to enhance engine room fire prevention across its entire fleet. Furthermore, Wärtsilä has since offered technical solutions and procedures for the maintenance of their engines to lower fire risk.

As casualty statistics indicate that many engine room fires occur when flammable liquid reaches a hot surface, the new F(M-P) notation introduces process checks and technical measures to prevent this from occurring. There is overarching emphasis on internal and external processes and procedures, with auditing of procedures to enable more efficient oversight. Likely areas for leakage are identified, and containment strategies for such areas offered.

Control and monitoring of vibration in essential systems is an added requirement, with ongoing data collection included to show trends over time. Insulation of potentially hot surfaces is also a key issue to prevent ignition, so maintenance activities in this area is emphasised.

In addition, the requirement for continuous improvement through data analytics means that owners and operators can gain ongoing benefits from the processes and systems they put in place to prevent fires.