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Fire fighting systems for machinery spaces

based on latest IMO SOLAS standards

By George Dicker, International Sales & Marketing Manager, Unitor Ships Equipment

From July 2002, a revised set of IMO Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) standards
for engine room protection becomes applicable for all vessels whose keel is
laid after that date.

Vessels requiring change

The new SOLAS requirements are defined in the new IMO paragraph Amendment 2000
Chapter II-2 Regulation 10.5.6:

-This paragraph shall apply to:

Passenger ships of 500 gross tonnage and above and cargo ships of 2000 gross tonnage and
above constructed on or after 1 July 2000; and
Passenger ships of 2000 gross tonnage and above constructed before 1 July 2002, provided
that such ships comply with the requirements of this paragraph not later than 1 October 2005

-Machinery space of category A above 500 m in gross volume shall in addition to the fixed
fire-extinguishing system required in SOLAS chapter II-2 regulation 7 or SOLAS Amendment
2000 chapter II-2 regulations 10.5.1, be protected by a fixed water-based or equivalent local
application fire-fighting system.

Areas to be protected

-The fire hazard parts of the internal combustion machinery used for the ships
main propulsion and power generation;
-Boiler fronts (burners)
-The fire hazard portion of incinerators (burners) and
-Purifiers for heated fuel oil

Fire protection system objectives

The primary objective of the fire protection system is to achieve a reduction in
heat output from the fire and gain control of the fire in order to reduce the
flame area and restrict it’s spread.

The need to suppress the fire should not prevent the ship from being
manoeuvrable, nor should its main power be lost. This does not imply that the
ship, having suffered a fire, should be able to go on trading or that all the
electrical generators should be operational.

The equipment to be protected can be divided into critical and non-critical.

Critical equipment is described as equipment that if shut down would cause a
loss of power or could prevent the main engine from operating and thus loss
of manoeuvrability.

There are several needs above the objective that it must be met:

• The system must operate without shutting down all power

• Personnel can work in the protected space without protective equipment
• Machinery space ventilation must remain operative, or a shut-down devise
must be installed that closes vents upon release of the system
• The machinery space need not need be sealed (required when a gas
based fixed main flooding system is released)
• When released, the system will not endanger life
• This system must be able to run for at least 20 minutes
• The system must be compatible with the fixed main fire fighting system
selected for the protected spaces

Further, the system must be able to operate using fresh or salt water, with or
without additives. The water supply can be from inside or outside of the
machinery space. Any form of non-harmful additive can be used.

The system can share common components from the fixed main fire fighting
system. Components are to be fully tested, and the system independently
tested to all stated IMO circulars. All system components are suitable for
intended use, with attention paid to the prevention of pipe blockage.

The system shall have its own detection and alarm system that gives warning
of release. The system can be released either manually or automatically.

Low-pressure systems are the preferred solution in the long run. Such
systems are based on a simpler design, the components are less costly and
the nozzle design is robust.

The practical installation parameters are also addressed in the new SOLAS
standard also addresses practical installation parameters with respect to
nozzle location in relation to the protected equipment.

“The system must not interfere with equipment maintenance,

overhead hoists or moving equipment”
The single system approach, with a uniform nozzle and limited pressure
variable throughout the system provides the simplest installable and
maintainable system over the life of the vessel (same nozzle design
throughout the system).

This provides a design that fits most vessel space arrangements while at the
same time reducing the need for onboard spares and specialist skill to install
and service.

Vertical and horizontal nozzle placement is determined as part of the system

testing requirements and in according to the following parameters:

Minimum Height
Deck head in generator or purifier areas

Maximum Height
Deck head or space above main engine crane,
or hoist.
16,0 m
Pressure rates
Nozzle pressure range: 4 to 6 bar.
Minimum nozzle height @ 4 bar is 1.5 m.
Minimum nozzle height @ 6 bar is 2 m.
Maximum nozzle height all pressures is 16 m. 1.5 m


“Nozzles to be located vertically above the area to be

protected and spaced in accordance with test results”
The purpose of system testing is to determine the optimal location and
number of the nozzles and limiting over-spray onto nearby equipment. The
addition of foam can be seen to have a beneficial effect on the system
performance whilst also enhancing the performance which may not have been
envisaged when the system parameters where first set.

Test results from Unitor show that

nozzles can be spaced up to two
meters apart and at the corners of
the protected equipment.

Adding foam reduces the risk of

pool fire and the time needed to
surpress the fire.

Independent visual displays and audible warnings are included in the system
requirement. The alarm must be located in a protected space at a main
station and give a clear indication what zone(s) is/are released. This is an

additional requirement to the alarm and detection system specified in SOLAS
Regulation ll.

The regulation calls for a minimum of one unit per protected area. However
the nature of the system, the equipment to be protected and interpretation of
the rules indicates that two detectors will often be required, selected from the
following (when two detectors are required, they should be different from each

Smoke detectors respond to general condition in the area

Flame detectors can be directed to deal with an isolated location
Infrared units can detect through background smoke

Areas to be protected
The main consideration for electrical equipment protection is whether it is
critical or not. If not critical, current approved enclosure standards should be

Boiler Fronts
This equipment is not considered critical unless it is the only supply of trace
heating to the fuel line for the main engine. In most cases, enclosure of IP22
is expected to satisfy this requirement. The location of the boilers suggests
the main fire detection method can be limited to smoke detection.

Incinerators are not considered critical. Electric enclosures with smoke
detection and the primary fire detector are recommended today are expected
to be in compliance.

Main engine fuel oil purifiers are considered critical equipment. The current
electrical enclosure standard appears to be IP54, and thus no additional
requirements for protection are envisaged. The nature of the equipment
suggests that a doubling of the detection equipment would prevent accidental
release or release caused by a near by fire. Smoke and a flame detectors
could be a viable solution.

Main Engines
The maneuverability of the vessel is crucial, so fire protection equipment is
considered critical. Electrical equipment in the fire hazardous areas of the
main engine are limited to detection and monitoring, and albeit important, not
critical to the maneuverability of the vessel. It expected that a dual detection
system would be employed to limit the possible accidental release of the
system and flame or infrared detection with or without smoke detection is
expected to be the preferred solution.

Drives and generators
Maintaining the power supply of the vessel is criteria, but this does not mean
that the generator that is on fire must continue to run or that the fixed local
application fire fighting system must continue to operate.

Electrical equipment on a generator driver is limited to detection and

monitoring, and albeit important but not critical to the supply of power to the
vessel. The generators are not part of the equipment to be protected and at
best may be subject to over spray from nozzle located over the drive. The
electrical components of the generator are well insulated and thus IP22
protection should be adequate. Some generator arrangements have
shrouding and may be considered as preventing overspray to nearby
equipment. It is expected that a dual detection system would be employed to
limit the possibility of accidental release of the system. Flame or infrared
detection with or without smoke detection is expected to be a preferred

“Compatibility of the local and main fixed fire fighting

systems needs to be considered”
The machinery spaces of a modern vessel are protected with a manual
arrangement consisting of a fire main with hose stations, a range of strategic
position fire extinguishers of different types, which is supported by two fixed
fire fighting systems. The first is a local system with a detection and release
arrangement, supporting a main flooding system as the final resort. The main
flooding system to day is mainly Gas (CO2) or high expansion foam using
inside air (HotFoam), for smaller machinery spaces water mist is a possible

To day its normal the high pressure system, with system up to 300 and 400
cylinders, These systems need to be stored in its on insulated space, with
both local and remote time delayed release mechanisiums. The gas is
distributed to the protected spaces by high pressure, code weld piping, which
terminates in the bottom of the protected spaces

HotFoam is a modern, high expansion foam solution that uses inside air and
distributes foam from a number of strategically located generators positioned
inside and at the top of the protected spaces. The system fills spaces at
greater than 2 meters per minutes. This means that an engine room is filled
within ten minutes. The system can be zoned to give a greater flexibility of
operation. Compared to CO2, the system requires much less storage space
and uses low pressure piping that does not need to be code welded.

Piping required is also a lot less than with a CO2 system, since the piping is at
the top of the protected space.

HotFoam is an ideal alternative to CO2 when
cargo hold protection is not required. HotFoam
also has zero effect on GWP or the ozone and
when released does not present any threat to

Supportive Documentation
A technical data sheet on Unitor’s fixed fire fighting systems can be obtained
at directly from Unitor’s corporate web site at Select
Products & Services > Literature. From here you can download a PDF copy
of the information you need.

Further information on fire extinguishers, hoses and safety equipment for

engine rooms can be found in Unitor’s online catalogue and search facilities at
Unitor Electronic Catalogue

The Unitor web site also contains links to the main classification societies,
where additional information can be found on the latest SOLAS needs for
engine room fire protection system.