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Legislative Assessment for Safety Hazards of Fire and Innovations in Ro-ro ship Environment

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Time for new fire safety regulations on ro-ro ships

Electric cars, refrigeration trailers, large oxygen supplies and weather decks with no extinguishing system – all factors that are behind a persistently high number of large fires on vehicle ferries. LASH FIRE is establishing a new generation of safety measures.

Transport and Mobility icon Transport and Mobility

Significant fires on ships carrying vehicles, known as ro-ro ships, happen more often than you would like to think. In recent decades there have been an average of 2.5 major fires per year on ro-ro ships. This has spurred the International Maritime Organization (IMO) on to try and establish better safety protocols. The LASH FIRE project set out to develop and assess fire safety measures addressing 20 critical aspects, defined based on past accidents and future challenges. Some of the current challenges relate to existing safety regulations. For example, no detection or extinguishing systems are required for weather decks, or the fact that something needs to be done about the refrigerated trailers which cause a third of all the fires. Future considerations include the reformation of the vehicle fleet to new alternative fuels, such as batteries, as well as how to integrate emerging materials and technology, such as drones, AI and the use of composite materials in fire protection. “I saw many current and future challenges which really inspired me to identify changes to improve the safety for the passengers and crew in this industry,” says project coordinator Franz Evegren, based at RISE Research Institutes of Sweden, which hosted the project.

A recognised technical basis for the revision of international IMO regulations

In all of the 20 challenges that the project considered, researchers, and experts have worked closely together with the ship operators. “This is very important to us as they are the ones who have experienced the problems first-hand, and they are the ones who will integrate new solutions one day,” explains Evegren. LASH FIRE investigated the whole chain of circumstances leading to a fire, from ignition to evacuation. A fundamental step omitted today is to analyse the cargo being transported. To enable this, the project developed a scanner to check cargo and a system of sensors and screens to detect hotspots prior to boarding. Other proposals include the use of crawling drones to assess fire hazard from underneath vehicles and autonomous water monitors on weather decks. Given that these are not roofed, traditional detection and extinguishing systems are a challenge.

Cost-effectiveness and fire risk analysis go hand-in-hand

But all the guidelines, proposals for new safety systems or procedures and equipment can only be applied if they are efficient, financially. LASH FIRE conducted an in-depth, cost-effectiveness assessment considering monetary values against improvements in safety through an immensely comprehensive risk assessment. “It’s been a great combined effort between our two advisory groups of operators and authorities, including Flag States and Classification Societies. These are the people who, in the end, will vote at IMO on whether they wish to adopt the solutions as regulations,” adds Evegren. He sincerely hopes the work they continue to do will create value for the operators, not just the managers and ship operators, but also the crew who work with these fire safety aspects in their daily work. “They are the ones who have raised many of the concerns and challenges that we have worked on, and it would make me very proud to say that their voices have been heard,” he remarks.


LASH FIRE, risk analysis, IMO regulations, fire risks, hazard, ro-ro ships, fire safety, sea

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