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Fire protection method for seagoing chemical tankers

Fire prevention is one of the most essential safety measures on board a chemical tanker. If a fire occurs, the action taken in the first few moments is vital. The man on the spot should raise the alarm and assess the situation. The minimum requirements for any ship's fire fighting equipment are laid down by the flag administration. The regulations are generally based on the principles of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and, for ships certified to carry dangerous chemicals, on the IMO Bulk Chemical Codes. It is essential to maintain equipment to a high standard.

chemical tanker navigation at sea
Specialist training for crew members, in particular as required for chemical endorsement of officers' professional certificates, should be supplemented by regular drills on board. Discipline is needed in the daily routines. Watch out for obvious things such as:

i) look out for all leaking flanges, valve and pump glands
ii) keep pump room bilges free from cargo spills
iii) see to it that steam pipe insulation does not get soaked with oil or cargo
iv) check cargo tank and pump room atmosphere for cargo vapours before starting any work there
v) do not steam a cargo tank simultaneously with washing
vi) use flame-proof lights in cargo tanks and pump rooms
vii) check pump glands and bearings regularly for heating
viii) cigarette lighters in the cargo tank area to be forbidden
ix) observe cargo vapour release during loading and take action if vapours reach accomodation areas
x) check cargo pump glands for heating
xi) take active part in safety-drills and get acquainted with all the safety equipment
xii) instruct newcomers on board on safety procedures
xiii) get to know your ship, cargo handling gear etc.

The formal responsibility for surveillance of the fire fighting equipment normally rests with the respective National Authority, but is in some cases delegated to the Classification Society. It rests with the Owner and the Master to keep all equipment in order and to provide additional means for any cargo not covered by the intent of the Rules of the National Authority.
Tanker on fire

Fire requires a combination of three elements: fuel, oxygen and heat or a source of ignition, and chemicals need the same combination in order to burn. The principal means of controlling and extinguishing a fire is to remove one or more of the elements, either by removal of the fuel, by cooling, or by excluding a supply of oxygen (air). But in chemical fires, the source of ignition may be heat from a reaction within the chemical itself or from a reaction after mixing chemicals. A supply of oxygen may be released from the chemical through heating by the fire. So fire fighting will be made more difficult. Without doubt, the best course is to prevent any fire occurring.

Some liquid chemicals have properties which necessitate fire fighting techniques that differ from those used on simple oil fires. The following list indicates some of these properties:

some chemicals are soluble in water and at certain concentrations may be flammable;

chemicals which are soluble in water will generally destroy normal foam, so alcohol resistant or dual purpose foam is required;

some chemicals are heavier than, and insoluble in, water: they can be smothered by a blanket of water, provided application is gentle;

some chemicals react with water to produce heat and thus give off increased amounts of flammable (and in some cases toxic) gases;

some chemicals evolve large volumes of toxic vapours when heated;

some chemicals form otherwise unexpected toxic vapours when burning;

the comparatively low auto-ignition temperature of some chemicals increases the chance of re-ignition.

The cargo data sheet for a chemical will draw attention to these unusual properties and indicate the correct fire fighting medium and special precautions for fire fighters.

Summarized below are recommended fire fighting methods for modern chemical tankers:

Total flooding method for seagoing chemical tankers

Water extinguishing method for fire protection

Foam extinguishing method for chemical tankers

Dry powder fire extinguishing method

Related Info:

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Tank cleaning and posoning hazards

Testing of tanks and cargoes

Practical tank cleaning methods for various noxious liquid cargo

Special tank cleaning method

Determining proper tank cleaning by acid wash method

Supervision of all tank cleaning and gas freeing operations

Disposal of tank washings, slops and dirty ballast - safe method

Following reference publications provide useful guidance and international regulations for carrying hazardous chemicals at sea.

Our detail pages contain somewhat larger lists of resources where you may find more useful information.

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