Fire Control Plan on Ship - Responding to Emergency

Dimitris Tsapis
May 8, 2021


When it comes to survival at sea, there is nothing more important than preparation. Understanding the dangers that you and your commanding vessel may face is a crucial part of the job.

Aside from risk management, preparation also helps you react quickly and intuitively in emergency situations. This is especially true when it comes to superyachts. These floating “mini-cities” can run into many different types of risks, all of which refer to their complex build and operation.

Luxury vessels are a fuel storage farm, high-voltage power plant, a full blown hotel and restaurant, as well as a storage facility, all in one. So, just like cities, one of the biggest risks onboard is that of an unexpected fire.

In this article we discuss the reasons that lead to fire onboard, the importance of a Fire Control Plan on ship, the steps that need to be taken during a fire drill, and additional information to help you prepare accordingly. Let’s delve in.

Table of Contents

What causes fire onboard?

When looking at relevant case studies, we can conclude that fire onboard is usually the result of one (or more) of the following:

  • Machinery failure
  • Overload of electrical systems
  • Human error

The presence of high temperatures, excess quantity of flammable oils, and other combustible materials can turn small issues in the engine or generator room into much more serious problems. We have seen this happen time and time again, and the results in all cases are devastating.

What is a Fire Control Plan?

The Fire Control Plan indicates the location of all important equipment and systems that can assist in case of fire. More specifically, it provides an overview of all the fire stations onboard, information about various fire alarm systems, extinguishing equipment, bulkheads, sprinkler installations, ventilation systems, and emergency exits.

fire control plan on ship

According to the SOLAS convention (Reg. 15, Chapter II), the Fire Control Plan is a mandatory requirement for all ships. Copies of the boat’s arrangement plan have to be placed permanently in several locations, including the navigating bridge, accommodation facilities, as well as the engine room. They should be written in English, as well as the working language of the employed personnel. This way, the captain and crew can easily access the information in case of emergency.

When it comes to larger vessels (cargo/passenger/cruise ships), each of the members responsible for fire patrol should also have a copy of the plan, usually in the form of a booklet. This way, in case of potential emergency drills onboard a ship, everyone will be able to act swiftly and in a coordinated manner.

Aside from its placement onboard, copies of the ship Fire Control Plan should also be available ashore.

  • One copy needs to be stored within the archives of the company that owns the vessel or the authorities responsible in case of emergency;
  • One copy needs to be available outside the deckhouse (in a weatherproof enclosure) to assist firefighters in case the fire takes place while the vessel is docked in a port.

For more detailed information on the Fire Control Plan, make sure you check the resource section below.

Yacht fire prevention tips

For a vessel to receive permission to sail international waters, it needs to abide by certain fire and boat drill regulations. The yacht has to adjust to these safety protocols and carry fire protection appliances approved by the concerned authorities.

But just having the equipment on board is not enough. The crew has to follow a set of practises to ensure the safety of everyone on board. And in the case of fire prevention, the following tips are a good place to start:

Tip #1 - Track maintenance tasks: A great way to keep track of all the necessary equipment, as well as the condition of the vessel’s systems is by usings a planned maintenance app for yachts. While the use of such apps are not mandatory, they help captains and engineers monitor the boat’s systems for issues that could potentially lead to fire risk.

For example, the crew should regularly inspect the yacht’s main and auxiliary engines for potential fuel or oil leaks. They must also correct improper electrical connections in order to avoid a potential overload.

Tip #2 - Use common sense: Make sure none of the crew, or external contractors, leave flammable items unattended in places they shouldn’t.

Similarly, when hosting open flame activities onboard (e.g. BBQ), make sure the equipment is used on a gas-free space on the vessel. Before retiring to your cabin for the night, make sure the flame sources are extinguished properly, and gas/fire monitoring systems are activated.

Finally, if smoking is permitted onboard, make sure the guests and crew use a ventilated area that is located away from flammable materials.

Tip #3 - Make sure the crew is trained: It is important for the crew to be well aware of the procedure they need to follow in case of fire. If an emergency situation arises, the crew should act intuitively, with everyone having a good overview of their role and responsibilities.

We will show you how such a fire drill looks like in a bit. For now, let’s discuss what training you (or your crew) needs to go through to qualify for such unexpected situations.

Fire drill training for the crew

There are several short courses that crew members can take to be properly trained against a potential fire emergency. A fire drill procedure on board a ship requires knowledge of all the equipment used in such situations, as well as the correct way to use them confidently.

The following video gives you a better idea of the sort of training the crew needs to go through to qualify for assistance in fire emergencies.

The short course you saw in the video is hosted by the STC. However, there are more options available depending on your needs and location:

Fire drill demonstration

The following video gives a good overview of a typical fire drill that the crew engages in, in case of emergency. It also entails a complete fire drill checklist with all important fire-fighting appliances:

It’s important to remember that the crew of private superyachts should engage in fire alarm tests regularly, especially if (part of) the crew if newly employed. More information about this can be found in the resources section below.

Important resources for further research and yacht fire drills

The pages listed below will help you get a better understanding of all the components linked with fire prevention aboard (luxury) yachts. This information is essential for yacht captains, engineers and crew alike:

  • Fire Control Plan on Ship - A detailed overview of all its components, graphic symbols, follow-up procedures, and more.
  • Fighting Fires on Superyachts - Very informative video for captains, engineers and boat owners alike when it comes to the inspection and maintenance of fire-fighting equipment onboard.
  • The importance of fire drills on ships - Learn why fire drills are important, as well as the most important points related to the prevention of fire onboard. This post is full of useful information and valuable resources.
  • Emergency drills onboard ship - Learn about all the 10 most important emergency drills that the crew should be trained for in order to prevent potential issues onboard.

Wrapping up

You should now have a better understanding when it comes to the importance of fire prevention onboard. The best protection against a fire casualty is to prevent it from occurring. The vessel should always maintain a well-trained and disciplined crew, perfectly maintained fire-fighting appliances, all while following a set of practises to ensure the safety of everyone onboard.

To sum up, keep these key points in mind:

  • Fire onboard is usually the result of machinery failure, electrical systems overload or human error.
  • A Fire Control Plan on ship shows the blueprint of the vessel, pointing out fire station(s), location of necessary equipment, fire alarm systems, and more.
  • To increase your chances of fire prevention, it is important to track all necessary maintenance tasks, use common sense, and ensure that the crew is properly trained.

And that’s it! Make sure you review all the resources listed above and, if needed, bookmark this article for future reference.