In a recent case of a serious fire in an engine room, the fixed CO2 gas fire- extinguishing system failed to operate. The master valve could not be opened from the remote position, and the crew did not know how to operate the system from the CO2 room itself. The entire engine room and accommodation were gutted.
The attention of shipowners is drawn to the importance of the fixed CO2 gas fire-extinguishing system fitted in a ship. This system is in most cases the last resort left to the ship's crew to try to extinguish a fire so it must be maintained in good operational condition at all times and the ship's crew must be well versed on how to operate it.
Regulation I/II of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea 1974 as modified by the 1978 Protocol specifies, among things, that the condition of the ship and its equipment shall be maintained to conform with the provisions of the Regulations to ensure that the ship in all respects will remain fit to proceed to sea without danger to the ship or persons on board. To comply with this requirement, regular tests and inspections of the CO2 system should be carried out and recorded by the ship's crew. In particular, emphasis should be given to the following :
a) Weekly Tests
i) The exhaust fan for the CO2 room should be switched on to see whether it is exhausting effectively.
ii)The CO2 alarm which is activated just before release of the gas should also be sounded to ascertain that it is audible to all staff in the egine room in all operating conditions.
b)Monthly Tests and Inspections
i) Pull-wires, shackles and pulleys should be checked for signs of corrosion and if necessary repaired or replaced.
ii) The condition of the relief valve along the CO2 manifold should be checked.
iii)The master valve should be opened and closed locally to ensure that it is in working condition, taking care that CO2 is not released when this is done.
i) The CO2 lines and nozzles must be blown through with compressed air to ensure that they are clear.
Ship's crew should be familiar with the operation of the system. In order for the system to be effective, 85 per cent of the CO2 must be released into the affected compartment within two minutes. This is accomplished by the simultaneous release of a series of CO2 bottles i.e. gang release. Before the CO2 is released to the engine room, all openings and vent flaps should also be stoppedand quick-closing valves on oil tanks closed.
It is also important, to go through the whole process of activating the CO2 system in a fire drill. In order to effectively deliver this message to the crew, masters should conduct fire drills and explain the entire system to the crew, placing emphasis on how to operate the system if certain contingencies arise i.e. if the pull-wire breaks or the pistons for actuating the gang release seize.
Shipowners are urged to deliver this message all Masters and crew under their charge. Any enquiries may be directed to Mr. Chandru Rajwani at Tel. No.63756217.
THE KONG LEONG
DIRECTOR OF MARINE