A fire in any area can very quickly become can be a serious emergency situation! If not contained quickly the fire can go from ignition to a major fire in a matter of seconds.

Types and causes of fires

Think about what’s about onboard your vessel that has the potential to become a fire or a source of a fire!

A fire onboard can instill instant terror and has the potential to cause spine-tingling, knee shaking semi-paralysis that can freeze you momentarily in place!

The most common cause of fires onboard vessels according to insurance company statistics is electrical faults.

Some of the most common causes of fires are:

  1. Faulty wiring
  2. Faulty power sockets
  3. Faulty distribution boards
  4. Faulty or overloaded power boards
  5. Faulty or damaged power leads
  6. Fuel vapours
  7. Hydrogen gas from batteries
  8. Hot works
  9. Charging mobile phones, tablets and computers
  10. Power leads
  11. LPG
  12. And many other potential fire sources

Electrical fires

Electrical fires can be caused by a number of issues including but not limited to:

  • Chaffed or otherwise damaged wiring
  • Failure in power boards and/or circuit breakers
  • Power outlets and extension leads due to overloading
  • Power leads run through doors, windows and hatches that get damaged

 Dealing with fires in other areas of your vessel

  • At the first sign of a fire raise the alarm – yell “FIRE FIRE FIRE”
  • Assess the situation: Is it safe to approach the fire or enter the cabin or compartment
  • For fires in a cabin, compartment or hold test the heat by putting the back of your hand on the hatch or door. If it’s very hot do not attempt to open the door or hatch
  • Position the vessel according to prevailing conditions
  • Activate fire pump (if installed)
  • If safe to approach the fire or enter the space ensure you have a back-up person then enter to assess the situation
  • Fight the fire using the appropriate fire extinguisher
  • DO NOT try to extinguish the fire with water where electricity is on
  • Use the fire or deck hose for boundary cooling (if fitted)
  • If the fire becomes uncontrollable and you’re unable to extinguish the fire GET OUT, exit the area and if in a cabin, compartment of hold close the door/hatch
  • Conduct a head count to ensure all persons are accounted for and apply First Aid if necessary
  • Transmit an emergency call relevant to the situation.
  • Shut any machinery and/or electrical equipment in the space if applicable
  • Continue to monitor the situation and do not open any doors or hatches until you are sure the chance of re-ignition is minimised
  • If necessary prepare to abandon ship
  • If in danger of losing the vessel transmit a MAYDAY message or call the Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) on 02 6230 6811
  • Abandon ship if necessary

The above steps for dealing with a general fire in other areas of your vessel and are the basic general steps to put in place. Your procedure for dealing with fires in other areas of your vessel will depend on a number of factors including but not limited to:

  • Do you have a fire pump or deck hose installed?
  • Where you locate your fire extinguishers
  • What type of fire extinguishers you have available
  • How many fire extinguishers are available
  • What you store in the space
  • How many crew are onboard
  • And any number of other factors specific to your vessel

You don’t want your vessel to end up like this……

Reducing the risk of fire onboard your vessel

  1. Regular inspections and maintenance is essential to preventing a fire on your vessel
  2. Avoid DIY on marine electrics. Incorrectly installed electrical components are more likely to cause a fire and…   it’s illegal!

Shorlink’s Recommendation

My 3 prevent a fire on your vessel recommendations are:

  1. Ensure you undertake regular inspections of electrical systems and where required carry out repairs or maintenance
  2. Keep loads on electrical outlets within the rated capacity of the outlet. Do not overload power sockets or boards
  3. Ensure your fire extinguishers are well maintained and in service at all times because…you never know when you’ll need them!


My top tips for preventing fires are:

  • The biggest tip of all is to ensure all your crew have appropriate training in fire response based on your vessel and its operations
  • All your crew know where fire extinguishers are located, what class of fires they are suitable for and how to use them
  • Keeping all areas free of potential fire hazards

By following these simple tips, the chances of a fire onboard your vessel is reduced significantly.

crew training log bookLog Books and Training!

Crew training is an invaluable resource for you and your business.  As you know, the crew’s safety is paramount, but do they know what to do in a fire and how to save themselves and your vessel? You should have a log book keeping track of every single crew member!

Shorlink can provide on-hand training specific to your vessel so you have peace of mind that the training has been completed, and completed correctly.

Our Emergency Response training packages are aimed at ensuring you can respond to emergency situations safely and efficiently!

  • Onboard emergency training (drills) including man overboard
  • Small Ships Emergency Training
  • Vessel safety inductions
  • Challenge Testing
  • Hands-On Flare and Extinguisher Training

Contact us today for more details!