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Which fire extinguishers are best on a boat?

Which fire extinguishers are best on a boat?

Which extinguishing agents belong on the yacht?

It’s a nightmare for every yacht owner: fire on board is one of the most dangerous accidents that can happen at sea, as fires on ships often spread quickly. Firefighting is more difficult than on land: there are no escape routes and there are often people on board. A quick response is required and the yacht should be equipped with appropriate fire extinguishers.

In general, carrying a fire extinguisher is not mandatory for all ships and boats. Especially in the private sector, the obligation to have fire extinguishers applies only to boats with a built-in engine above 6 hp or with an external engine above 10 hp. This also applies if cooking and/or heating facilities are available.

For example, in Germany, fire protection for large and commercially used ships is regulated by the Inland Waterways Inspection Regulations, the Maritime Ordinance, and the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS).

Which fire extinguisher to use depends on what (what substance) is burning

Different types of fire extinguishers are suitable for optimal fire protection in shipping. The best way to put out a fire – and with what – depends primarily on what exactly is burning. For this reason, fire classes are indicated on fire extinguishers.

Class A refers to embers such as wood, B refers to flammable liquids, especially fuels such as petrol or diesel, and F is relevant for burning fats (eg overheated fat in a frying pan). Important: Fats cannot be removed with water; the first choice is a fire blanket.

The so-called ABC fire extinguishers are suitable for many fires, are cheap, and last a long time

ABC (powder) fire extinguishers are suitable for all other fires. Advantage: universal fire extinguishers have a long service life, are cheap to buy, and, if used correctly, also very effective.

Disadvantage: the fine powder gets into every crevice, no matter how small, when sprayed; after the fire is successfully extinguished, collateral and subsequent damage often occurs, which can be significant. It should also be noted that the powder can attack metals because it contains salts that can hurt the on-board electronics or electrical system on the yacht.

It is recommended to use a foam fire extinguisher inside to minimize subsequent damage

The use of a foam fire extinguisher is therefore recommended especially in the interior of the ship. With this fire extinguisher, the extinguishing agent can be applied specifically to the source of the fire and does not penetrate all joints like powder, so the damage during extinguishing remains manageable.

The foam can be wiped off surfaces, which protects the interior of the boat. The ABC powder fire extinguisher, on the other hand, is a good fit for the deck.

ABC fire extinguishers are available as rechargeable and permanent pressure extinguishers. Their advantage is that they are frost-resistant to minus 30 degrees and also cover fire protection class C. This means that powder fire extinguishers are generally suitable for outdoor areas on board, where it can sometimes be very cold.

Grease extinguishers are mostly used in the kitchen.

Grease extinguishers are also essential for fire protection in shipping. Grease extinguishers are necessary for the galley, especially on large ships with onboard restaurants or on cruise ships.

It is also mandatory under SOLAS to have a class F fire extinguisher in engine rooms. On sports yachts, this area is usually limited to the galley stove where too hot oil can catch fire. But even here the fire can spread quickly, for example by spreading to curtains or towels.

CO2 fire extinguishers leave no residue and protect technical systems

A CO2 fire extinguisher is also recommended, especially on boats with many electronics installed. The extinguishing agent of this fire extinguisher is non-conductive and extinguishes without residue, thus protecting technical systems.

However, the CO2 fire extinguisher must not be used in rooms that are too small, because carbon dioxide also displaces oxygen from the breathing air. Care should be taken here. So-called fire holes, special extinguishing holes into which gas can be sprayed, have proven to be advantageous. Disadvantage: CO2 does not cool the fire source.

MED fire extinguisher certification is recommended when sailing in international waters

In principle, all presented types of fire extinguishers represent a good basis for fire protection in shipping. If navigating international waters, fire extinguishers should be MED certified. These fire extinguishers meet the design and quality requirements of the Marine Equipment Directive (MED).

They are recognized throughout the EU and, based on an agreement with the USA, also in American waters. However, declarations of conformity should be carried out for these fire extinguishers to avoid possible fines. You can easily tell if a fire extinguisher is MED-approved because it is marked with a symbol.

Statistically, according to research by SeaHelp, the most common fire is in the kitchen

The German Federal Office for Transport and Digital Infrastructure recommends carrying at least two ABC portable fire extinguishers – in addition to the minimum equipment. On larger ships, it is also advisable to install a fire extinguisher in the forecastle, cockpit, and galley to minimize the required distances. The fire blanket also serves as an effective tool for extinguishing small fires and incipient fires.

“Statistically, the most common causes of fires are kitchen fires and faulty wiring,” says SeaHelp operations manager Marko Orlic. A fire blanket should therefore always be ready for use and within reach in the kitchen. Ship heaters also caused fires during the winter months, followed by engine compartment fires.

Caution is required with smoke from the engine compartment – there is a risk of ignition

“If there is smoke from the engine compartment, the crew should not make the mistake of opening the room immediately,” advises the rescuer; a rapid supply of oxygen could lead to explosive ignition. When it comes to the electrical system, yachts are often retrofitted with electrical equipment, however, even though other cables would then be required; The cables could also corrode over time.

“If a fire breaks out on a yacht, you first need to quickly clarify what (substances) are burning, so that you can then select and use a suitable fire extinguisher,” says Marko Orlic. The speed of intervention is often decisive in whether a fire can spread – or not.

If help is needed in the event of a fire, the SeaHelp app is recommended

Marko Orlic from SeaHelp advises: “The next step is to stop the fuel supply, close the gas bottles and turn off the electrical (main) switches. Emergency services should be alerted immediately if the fire threatens to get out of control. This is where the SeaHelp app helps and saves valuable time”.

In the event of a fire on board, it is important not to panic, to quickly call for professional help, to first try to extinguish the fire yourself (if the flames are small or there is little smoke), and to be able to evacuate the crew immediately if necessary.

The highest principle is self-preservation; in the event of a full fire, the yacht should be isolated if possible

The highest priority is not to expose yourself to danger. Orlic: “If you just call for help and do nothing else, a fire on board can spread very quickly under certain circumstances,” then any help can quickly become too late. In this case, it may make sense to deliberately move the boat to open water to prevent the flames from spreading to other yachts or port buildings.

The captain and crew should familiarize themselves with the fire extinguishers on board in advance – the information is provided by the labels on the containers. Manipulation must be practiced even before an emergency occurs. Many companies, but also clubs, associations, as well as fire brigades offer so-called firefighting courses, which are even mandatory for part of the crew in some offshore regattas.

Attention: the operating time of the fire extinguisher is very short. The rule is the first aim, then launch.

A: if a fire extinguisher is used to fight a fire, it should also be taken into account that the “run time” of a conventional fire extinguisher can sometimes be very short (often just a few seconds), meaning that once the removal process has started, it should immediately discover the target “.

SeaHelp recommends having fire extinguishers serviced or inspected annually. There should be at least one fire extinguisher/fire extinguisher in each cabin, while the details of the ship’s register or flag should be observed at all times.


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