Table of Contents
4-1 Extra Hazards in the Marine Environment. 3
4-2 Vessel Operating Systems. 6
4-3 Vessel Stability 13
4-4 Dewatering. 27
4-5 Organizational Resources 36
4-6 Strategy and Tactics 42
4-7 Fireboat Operations 57
4-8 Post-Incident Activities 62
4-9 Legal Issues 63

4-10 Vessel Fire Checklist 66
4-11 Training 72
4-12 Incident Command. 77
Bibliography 78


The following requirements for qualification as Marine Fire Fighter - Technician level are taken from NFPA 1405 "Guide for Land Based Fire Fighters Who Respond to Marine Vessel Fires"

1. Completion of MARINE FIRE FIGHTER - AWARENESS LEVEL requirements is a pre-requisite for completion of this level

2. Completion of MARINE FIRE FIGHTER - OPERATIONS LEVEL requirements is a pre-requisite for completion this level.

3. Completion of the training to ICS level 400

4. Completion of the required vessel pre-fires.

5. Attendance at a certified Shoreside Fire Fighting Training Course.

The Technician level firefighter should know basic ship construction and ship design, particularly for those vessels that frequent Vancouver. A working knowledge of ship nomenclature and systems will allow the Technician level firefighter to aid incident commanders in their planning of marine responses. The Technician level firefighter should be able to access and/or operate all equipment available for shipboard firefighting.
4-1 Extra Hazards in the Marine Environment.

Tides and Currents

Tides are critical to the fire officer, since they produce vertical and horizontal movement of the vessel; equipment, such as hoses and ladders, that are attached to the vessel, as well as “drafting” operations from docks and piers, can be adversely affected.
Tides are the daily changes in the depth of the water. Depending upon location, this change can vary from unnoticeable to more than 30 ft (9.2 m). Changes in the tide should be considered when mooring or anchoring a vessel and during fire suppression activity. The vessel can become grounded, which, in turn, can cause listing or capsizing.
Currents can result from tide changes and river flow. Tidal currents change direction at predictable intervals. River flow increases or decreases the tidal current. The river flow rate usually increases during spring runoff and decreases during summer and fall droughts.
Currents affect the movements of vessels and boats. They put additional strain on the mooring system of a vessel and can even compromise a weakened system. When currents hit obstructions in the water, such as piers, they often change direction and form whirlpools and eddies. Fireboats and rescue boats maneuvering around piers can find it very difficult to maintain their position in these swirling waters. People who fall overboard into strong currents can be pulled under piers, barges, or vessels by these currents and can become trapped underneath them.
The coast guard, the vessel crew can estimate tides and tidal currents from Tide and Current Tables produced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. For local conditions around piers and in channels, docking pilots and channel pilots should be consulted.


Observing and reporting the actual weather conditions at the site of an incident is of critical importance to planning and executing an effective response. Observations of the on-scene weather conditions should be reported to the command post at regular intervals. Changes in on-scene weather conditions also are to be reported as soon as they are recognized.
A variety of weather forecasting information sources might be available to the incident commander for planning and modifying fire-fighting strategies. Local National Weather Service (NWS) offices might be able to provide weather forecasts that are specific to the location and nature of the incident. Continuous weather forecasts are broadcast by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on VHF-FM channels. The USCG has maritime weather observations and forecasts available for use by the incident commander. Local airport FAA offices may make aviation weather observations and forecasts available.
Weather conditions over water are often different from the weather experienced over land. Rapid changes of the weather occur frequently in coastal areas and can take incident responders by surprise. Weather observations and forecasts for offshore conditions can become less accurate as the distance from shore increases.
The wind speed and temperature over water can be expected to be different from conditions observed over land. Temperatures over water can be a few degrees warmer during the winter but cooler during the summer. A breeze can be blowing along the coast even when it is calm inland because of this temperature difference. Winds can be stronger along the coast or in harbors where there are few obstructions.

Weather Effects on Fire Fighting Operations.

Fire fighting operations are often affected by the weather conditions. The warmest summer and the coldest winter days come with North and east Winds. The Incident Commander must be alert to changes in the wind direction, which may affect the location of equipment and personnel and on a larger scale may require the evacuation of civilians.

Vessel Traffic.

The amount and type of vessel traffic vary from port to port, within a port, and along waterways. Vessels, such as fishing vessels, sailboats, pleasure boats, naval vessels, and deep-draft vessels, all present different traffic problems. The Coast Guard Captain of the Port has the authority and resources to control vessel traffic in the harbor. Contact the USCG Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) for assistance in controlling vessel traffic, bridge openings, and other items that may aid the Incident Commander.

Channels and Navigation.

Nautical charts are maps of a harbor that indicate the channels used by vessels to enter and leave a port. They also provide the projected depth of the channels and the buoys and beacons that mark the channel.
Vessel movements are governed by the Rules of the Road (Navigation Regulations) and harbor regulations where applicable. Many larger vessels are under the guidance of a local pilot(s) who has extensive knowledge of local conditions.

Bottom Conditions.

Bottom conditions should be evaluated when a vessel is anchored or moored. An anchor might fail to hold on a rocky bottom while it could hold too well on a muddy bottom, making it difficult to pull up. The nautical chart of the area identifies the bottom conditions (e.g., mud, sand, rock, wrecks). When a vessel is moored to a pier and in danger of settling to the bottom due to an excess of fire-fighting water, the slope of the bottom determines how the vessel comes to rest. At some piers, the bottom is sloped steeply toward a deeper channel. A vessel settling on this bottom can slide out toward the channel or capsize.
4-2 Vessel Operating Systems.


Because a ship is a self-contained unit, its operation is dependent upon and comprised of various internal systems and sources of power. These sources provide power for functions such as movement, electricity, HVAC, water/sewage, and cargo-handling capability. Some barges, such as petroleum barges, will also be equipped for independent operation.


Most vessels are equipped with their own electrical generating systems. Electrical power is supplied throughout the ship by various distribution systems. Generators usually are driven by steam turbines or diesel engines. Most vessels also have a self-starting emergency generator that supplies vital equipment and emergency lighting; most small vessels [less than 500 gross tons (454 m tons)] and barges have a manually connected emergency power source or none at all. While in port, the vessel might draw its electrical power from shore or use a small generator, which supplies power for deck lighting , air compressors, and hydraulic equipment.


Most vessels are a maze of enclosed metal spaces that need to be provided with air exchanges on a regular basis. Exchanges usually are accomplished by mechanical systems that can be similar to those in buildings. The initial procedure during a ship fire may to shut down all ventilation systems during the containment phases of fire fighting. The technician level firefighter should be familiar with all types of mechanical ventilation aboard vessels and also with the operation of fire dampers, which can control the spread of smoke and fire within the vessel.

Figure 1 – Mushroom vent with closure damper

The type of ventilation used depends upon the nature of the space and the service of the ship. It can be natural, mechanical, or a combination of the two, and may be extended to air heating, cooling, cleaning, humidifying, and dehumidifying. Air movement in natural ventilation systems is created by the difference in density of inside and outside air and depends on the relative air temperatures. Ventilators, which are dependent upon wind direction and velocity for induction of air currents, are used with these systems. Natural ventilation is generally limited to a few shops, lockers and storerooms, depending upon their location and some dry cargo holds, although it is sometimes used for engine and boiler rooms. In dry cargo holds it is generally accomplished with vents in the forward end for exhaust and cowls for supply at the after end. Large ducts are required because of the low velocity necessary for airflow. In a mechanical system air is moved by various types of fans driven by electric motors, providing positive circulation of air at desired temperature and volume, functioning regardless of outside atmospheric conditions, and is easily controlled to meet possible variation in requirements.

Supply systems convey outside air to the fan and from the fan to the spaces ventilated. An exhaust system, requiring similar ducts, conveys depleted air out of the ventilated spaces through a fan, which discharges to the atmosphere. When mechanical exhaust is not provided, the air escapes to the atmosphere through doors, hatches, etc., being forced out by the pressure of the supply fan and is termed “natural exhaust”.

A simple mechanical ventilating system will be composed of louvers or special outlet and inlet terminals, and elbows, as well as numerous changes in the size and shape of ducts to suit the ship’s structure, and connecting ductwork to distribute air to the various spaces. Each of these items creates a loss in pressure, the sum of which, plus the pressure necessary to give motion to the volume of air, constitute the total pressure required of the fan.

Types of Fans.

Axial-flow fans are used widely because of compactness and high efficiency and are well adapted for ventilation of cargo spaces, machinery spaces, and other places where noise is no problem. Centrifugal fans are used for ventilation and air condition where quiet operation is desired and also for galleys and battery room-exhaust installations where the motors should not be located in the air stream. Propeller fans are used in bulkhead installations and sometimes in a cowl for machinery space supply and exhaust systems where the pressure required is small.

Fans must be located for easy accessibility to the motors for maintenance. Many motors are provided with two-speed controls to permit reduction in supply air during cold weather. Motors are selected for 104 oF ambient temperature except when located where high temperatures prevail in which case they are selected for 122 oF ambient temperature. Axial and propeller fans generally are provided with waterproof or totally enclosed motors.

Ventilation ducts.

Weather openings for ventilation include louvers in the bulkheads; and cowls, goosenecks, and mushrooms on deck. They are made either watertight or weather-tight depending on their location and on the space ventilated, and should be so located that exhaust air does not contaminate supply air. Cowls and goosenecks usually are provided with portable covers.

Interior terminals vary in type, each individual space requiring its own particular design. Directional terminals are used in galley, pantry, laundry, machinery space, and similar heat producing spaces where spot cooling is desired. Slotted outlets also are used in front of galley hoods and switchboards. Supply registers ceiling or wall type diffusers, and floor units enclosed in steel cabinets are used for ventilated and air conditioned living spaces, with terminal velocities to provide diffusion and throw without objectionable air movement and air noise in the space.

Exhaust terminals are located close to heat sources and are usually an open-end duct covered with ½ inch wire mesh or with grilles, where appearance is important. Exhaust-inlet velocities of 1000-1500 fpm in living spaces and up to 2000 fpm in other spaces are frequently used.

Air filters located in the inlet are a highly desirable item in supply ventilation systems and an absolute necessity in air conditioning systems. Viscous coated filters, 20 by 20 inches, made of bronze are satisfactory for marine use. These filters without the viscous coating also are used in galley exhaust systems as grease filters and are cleaned easily by washing.

Fire Dampers.

Figure 2 – Manual fire damper pull station aboard ferry

Dampers are sometimes used to control the volume of air delivered at terminals. They must be of rugged construction and rattle proof. The USCG requires that manually operated dampers be provided on vessels at the weather opening in all ventilating systems to shut off the passage of air in the event of fire, except in exhaust ducts from film lockers and projection rooms. Fire dampers will not prevent fires, but they can help stop fire from spreading. They do this in two ways: First, they reduce or shut off the supply of air to the fire. This reduces the rate at which the fire intensifies and thus reduces the heat buildup. Second, they block heat, smoke and flame, so that the combustion products do not spread the fire through the ducting and into uninvolved spaces. On some vessels, ventilation system motors can be shut down from the bridge or from the CO2 room. With the ventilation fans shut down and the dampers closed, the travel of fire through the ducts is slowed considerably.

When ducts pass through main vertical zone bulkheads, automatic fire dampers are required which will operate by melting a fusible link at 165 oF. Automatic dampers also required in exhaust ducts over frying vats, and the like in galleys, and are designed to operate by melting a fusible link at 212 oF. Dampers are so designed as to close against the anticipated draft in the duct. The USCG also requires that all electrical ventilation systems be provided with remote control means for stopping the motors in case of fire or other emergency.

Cargo Hold Ventilation.

Dry cargo holds, except for commodities such as ore, and the like, are generally ventilated with mechanical supply and natural exhaust using one air change in 20 to 30 minutes. The object of cargo ventilation is to reduce hold temperatures, when necessary, and to prevent undue condensation of moisture on the hull structure and cargo. This moisture is best reduced by introducing relatively dry air into the ventilating system and exhausting an equal quantity of higher humidity air overboard.

Many ships are now fitted with dehumidification facilities utilizing silica gel or lithium chloride with an inhibitor. Some recent large cargo ships have been provided with such equipment to process about 5000 cfm, which, when discharged into the cargo spaces, will absorb as much as 275 pound of water vapor per hour.

Each hold has a self-contained supply recirculation exhaust system, which includes a weather inlet, fan distributing ducts, and automatic dampers. The hold ventilation fans usually are started or stopped by push buttons located near each fan.

Usually two control stations are provided for the dehumidification system, one in the chart-room or wheelhouse, and one in the machinery space so that either may select the degree of cargo conditioning required. The controls are arranged so that the systems can provide each hold with ventilation either with or without dry air, or recirculation with or without dry air. The ventilation systems use outside air without dry air when weather conditions are favorable. Recirculation and dehumidification are used only when the weather dew point approaches or is above the temperature in the hold. These conditions are controlled by use of a separate four-position pneumatic switch for each hold. Remote reading recording instruments in the chart-room indicate condition of the air entering and leaving each hold, allowing the operator to operate the system efficiently.

The marine transportation of perishable fruits, vegetables, and meats has required the industry to develop many techniques in cargo refrigeration. Each ship owner seems to have his own particular methods, some of which are patented. The American Bureau of Shipping also has numerous requirements, which must be adhered to.

Ships provided with refrigerated cargo spaces should be of a design adaptable to meet the demand of any product. The refrigerated cargo spaces must be designed for transporting frozen, pre-cooled, and hot cargo at temperatures ranging from 0o to 55o F. Frozen fruits and vegetables are transported from 0o to 5o F meats 15oF, and fresh fruits and vegetables between 32o and 45oF. The circulation of an even flow of air throughout the cargo is necessary to keep the cargo cool. Close control of this air temperature and humidity are important factors in the transportation particularly of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Most sensitive to temperature fluctuation is the banana cargo, which must be held between 55o and 56oF to delay ripening, and yet not chill, which prevents proper ripening when later exposed to ripening temperatures. This chilling may cause a discoloration of the skin, and 1oF increase in the temperature may cause considerable spoilage. Heaters maybe required for winter use to prevent a drop in temperature due to outside air.

A 1-minute air change is almost universally used for virtually all refrigerated cargoes held at temperatures above freezing. Fruit growers' associations require cooling air to be circulated at the rate of 1 to 1 1/2 air changes per minute, with temperature control within 1 or 2 degrees of the specified temperature. Often shippers enforce these guarantees by installing locked recording thermometers in the compartments, which can be opened only by the shipper's representative at the port of destination.

The quantity of air required for frozen cargo maybe circulated at a much lower rate than the foregoing. Fans are usually installed with a 50% speed reducing control on the motor.

Complete distribution of air is essential throughout the loaded cargo space. The cargo must be stowed in such a way as to permit the air stream to flow between the boxes or crates, as improper stowing defeats the operation of any refrigerating system. Dunnage is provided for this purpose, and is laid between each crate. Leftover dunnage in a hold increases the fuel load available for a fire.

The ripening of fruits and vegetables is not completely stopped by refrigeration, only retarded. This ripening produces carbon dioxide gas, the presence of which hastens the ripening and impairs the keeping qualities of the fruit. Outside air is introduced in these compartments at a rate of at least one air change in 20 minute to keep this gas content low. A recent development in the transportation of fruit uses inert gasses such as nitrogen to reduce the oxidation of the product. If this method is being used the fire fighter should use caution and monitor the oxygen content in the container or the hold.

Fuel Systems.

Fuel oil systems aboard vessels include tanks, piping, pumps, and associated equipment. The associated equipment is used for heating, straining, centrifuging, measuring, and burning fuel oil. The ship’s personnel can use the fuel oil transfer system to effect vessel stability and trim by transferring fuel from tank to tank. The process of loading fuel oil is referred to as "bunkering" or "taking bunkers". During this time fuel oil can overflow from tanks and pose an ignition as well as a pollution hazard. Fuel is stored in large tanks and double bottoms throughout the vessel. Large vessels burn a heavy fuel that is heated to approximately 140 degrees F before injection into engines. Modern vessels primarily use diesel engines and these engines have horsepower ratings as high as 75,000 hp. The other principal propulsion for large vessels is steam which is generated in boilers and delivered to turbines. The steam generated in boilers is superheated to 650 degrees F. and presents a hazard to firefighters working in engine rooms

Communications Systems.

Large vessels are dependent on internal communications for their efficient operation. Systems can include electric and electronic telephones and voice-powered telephones. Voice tubes are sometimes provided between a ship’s wheelhouse and engine room for use in an emergency. The ship’s personnel throughout the vessel use VHF and UHF portable radios. Use of these radios should be considered as an aid in communicating inside the vessel in areas where 800 MHz radios are ineffective.

Refrigeration Systems.
Fish processing vessels and refrigerated cargo carriers have plants that contain large amount of liquefied gas refrigerant. This refrigerant may be ammonia or a Freon like gas such as R22. There may be many tons of this gas contained in receivers, usually in the engine room of the vessel. These receivers should be treated as exposures that have to be protected from fire. Additionally, the shutoff valves to the holds should be identified and secured to prevent gas from escaping from damaged piping.

Cargo Handling Systems.

The main purpose of a merchant ship is to transport cargoes safely and quickly from one place to another. Types of cargoes vary and necessitate different types of ship and shore loading and discharging mechanisms. Some types of cargo-handling gear include winches and booms, derricks, cranes, floating cranes, roll-on/roll-off ramps, shoreside gantries, and pumping systems. Fire department personnel should not operate the vessel’s cargo handling equipment. Many types of cargo handling equipment may receive power from multiple sources. Prior to the operation of any shipboard equipment the effect of its use on fire fighting operations should be examined.

Mooring and Anchoring Systems.

Vessels are secured to docks with various configurations of mooring lines and wires. These mooring systems need to be monitored because of changes in the tide and current. Broken moorings can set the vessel adrift, resulting in personnel becoming stranded on the burning vessel and separated from their shoreside supply lines.
Anchors are connected to vessels by heavy chain or cable, which is manipulated through a device known as a “wildcat/windlass.” Anchoring is a specialized evolution of seamanship and necessitates proper training to be performed safely and successfully.

Inert Gas Systems.

The design and purpose of the inert gas system is to exclude oxygen or air from the void tank spaces of liquid bulk carriers. These gases usually are manufactured onboard the ship. Inert gas can present a hazard to fire fighters. The inert gas found aboard liquid bulk carriers is produced as the end product of combustion and contains mostly nitrogen. The oxygen content of a space that has been inerted may be as low as 0.5%. Extreme caution should be used when working near the area and Confined Space Entry Procedures should be used if the rescue of personnel is to be performed.

4-3 Vessel Stability


In combating a fire aboard a vessel, attention should be given to the volume of water used for extinguishment and its effect on the stability of the vessel. Water applied to a vessel fire can jeopardize the stability of the vessel and the safety of the personnel onboard. The application of water should be monitored carefully and removed in a timely and efficient manner. It is recommended that the incident commander have a basic understanding of this chapter. However, the incident commander is urged to consult the vessel’s master, engineer, and other experts to determine how much water can be used safely. How and when water is added or removed from the vessel is critical.

Vessel Stability and Equilibrium.


Stability is the tendency of a floating vessel to return to an upright position when inclined from the vertical by an external force. If the vessel returns to or remains at rest after being acted upon, it is either in stable or neutral equilibrium. If it continues to move unchecked in reaction to the external force, it is in unstable equilibrium. An unstable vessel, therefore, is one that, after being inclined, if it does not find a point of stable or neutral stability, continues to incline until it capsizes. Throughout an incident, it is desirable to maintain vessel stability and to minimize list.

Initial Stability.

The ability of the vessel initially to resist heeling from the upright position is determined by its initial stability. The vessel’s initial stability characteristics hold true only for relatively small angles of inclination. At larger angles, defined as those over 10 degrees, the ability of the vessel to resist inclining movements is determined by its overall stability characteristics.

Typical Vessel Conditions.

This section generally addresses stability with respect to vessels that are floating, that have hulls that are intact, and that are moored or in protected waters. Usually, these conditions exist during the beginning stages of an incident. Stability and weight distribution considerations are relatively simple in these situations.
If, for instance, an explosion has ruptured the hull or the vessel has run aground, the situation will become more complex. These more complex situations can occur singly or in combination and include vessels that are:
Damaged (holed) with free communication to the sea;
Under way with extensive free surface;
In dry dock, graving dock, or synchrolift, or a similar situation.

Unquestionably, expert advice should be obtained any time the stability of the vessel is in doubt. A complete list of consulting resources, including those for vessel stability, should be compiled and maintained. The vessel’s crew, who should be most familiar with the vessel’s stability situation, might not always be available or able to provide an adequate assessment of the situation.

Center of Gravity.

The center of gravity of an intact vessel is the location of the point where the sum of all the weights in the vessel is equal to zero with respect to any axis through this point. The vertical downward force of gravity acts through this point. Knowledge of the center of gravity and its relationship with the vessel’s center of buoyancy and righting arm are key factors when determining and controlling vessel stability.

Figure 3 - Center of Gravity
The concept of center of gravity is essentially the same for a vessel or other mobile equipment, such as an aerial ladder. In essence, the weight of the particular piece of equipment is considered to be concentrated at that point. As an aerial ladder is raised, the unit’s center of gravity rises and is counteracted by the inherent weight of the vehicle and its supporting outriggers. Similarly, a vessel’s center of gravity also rises as weight is placed higher in the vessel. It differs from an aerial ladder in that it is unable to provide external support mechanisms (i.e., outriggers) due to the water around it.
Vessels, therefore, suffer a loss of stability as water utilized in fire fighting accumulates above the original center of gravity. This is particularly significant with regard to vessels with large superstructures, such as passenger vessels and car carriers. The higher the weight, the more detrimental the effect. If this vulnerability is not properly understood and controlled, the consequences can impact all fire-fighting efforts severely. It is an integral part of overall strategy.

Free Surface Effect.
Free surface, for the purpose of fire fighting, is defined as the tendency of liquid within a compartment to remain level as the vessel is transversely inclined or heeled, provided the compartment is:
Partially filled; and
Allows the liquid to move unimpeded from side to side.

The free surface effect of loose water anywhere in the vessel impairs stability by raising the center of gravity in an apparent or virtual sense.
Free Surface Critical Factors.
If the vessel is listing or develops a list, the liquid flows to the low side of the compartment and results in an athwartship shifting of weight. This movement causes the apparent height of the center of gravity to rise, impairing stability. The critical factors of free surface are the surface area of the liquid and the breadth of the compartment. The length of the compartment is much less a factor than its width. For fire-fighting stability considerations, a liquid’s free surface effect is not related to either the liquid’s depth or its location within the vessel. Whether the liquid is high or low, on or off centerline, or forward or aft, the reduction in stability due to free surface is the same. However, it is critical that the effect on the overall stability of the vessel be kept under consideration. A weight added high in the ship not only raises the center of gravity due to free surface but also raises it due to the height above the keel.

Free Surface Reduction.

Pocketing is the effect of liquid contacting the top of the compartment or exposing the bottom of the compartment. It reduces the breadth of the free surface area and therefore has a beneficial effect on stability. Similarly, solid fixed objects projecting through the surface (surface permeability) impede the liquid’s movement and are of some benefit. Since the positive effects of pocketing and surface permeability are difficult to determine, they should be considered to be an extra margin of safety in free surface assessments.

Figure 4 - Free surface effect

Combined Effects.
The strongest threat to vessel stability from water-induced fire-fighting efforts is encountered when the water is:
Confined high in the vessel; and
Free to travel significant distances across the beam.

The consequences of these combined effects can be devastating. Unfortunately, they sometimes trigger other serious problems. Once the vessel begins to heel, this domino effect can quickly compound an already aggravated situation.

Center of Buoyancy.

If the water that is displaced by the vessel were considered as a single homogeneous unit, the center of the displaced volume of water would be considered the location of the vessel’s center of buoyancy. This is the geometric center of the underwater form of the vessel. The vertical upward force of buoyancy acts through this point.

Righting Arm.

The perpendicular distance between the force of gravity (through the center of gravity) and the force of buoyancy (through the center of buoyancy) is called the “righting arm” or “righting lever.” It generally is calculated at 10-degree intervals of list for several different load conditions of the vessel.

Metacentric Height.
The true measure of a vessel’s initial stability is called the “metacentric height” or “GM” of the vessel. It is simply a geometric relationship between the center of gravity (G), the center of buoyancy (B), and the vessel’s righting arm (GZ) for a given angle of inclination. After listing, Bl is the new center of buoyancy.
If M is above G, GM is positive. If M is below G, GM is negative. A positive GM indicates the vessel will tend to float upright and will offer resistance to an applied outside force. A negative GM indicates that the vessel is initially unstable and will cease to float upright when even the smallest outside force is applied. An initially unstable vessel might list only at a given angle and come to rest in a state of stable equilibrium. If the negative GM is great enough, the vessel will not come to rest before capsizing.
This relationship between the vessel’s stability and GM is only accurate at small angles of heel (below 10 degrees). As list increases, the overall stability of the vessel is the determining criteria. This is interpreted through the stability curves that are normally found in the vessel’s Trim and Stability Booklet, generally obtained from the captain. During cargo loading and unloading, accurate values of the ship’s stability are rarely maintained.

Figure 5 – Metacentric height
Stability Curves.


The ship’s officers should identify the curve that most closely represents the ship’s current condition of loading. If no curve is considered applicable, the curve showing the minimum stability condition should be determined. If no curves exist, the incident commander should depend upon the ship’s officers, USCG, and others for guidance. The graphic curves depicting the vessel’s calculated righting arms at incremental angles of heel are called the vessel’s “stability curves.” These curves reveal the overall stability characteristics of the vessel. They are extremely important, since they quickly reveal the maximum righting arms for the vessel at different conditions of loading (different values of GM). The maximum righting arm and, more importantly, the angle of inclination at which it occurs, is the primary indicator of danger where the stability of the vessel is in serious doubt.

Figure 6 - Stability curve.
It should be noted that the maximum righting arm attained in this condition is at an approximate inclination angle of 46 degrees. Generally, this maximum angle indicates the point at which the edge of the weather deck becomes submerged. At this point, stability drops off rapidly. A vessel suffering a permanent list would be in imminent danger of capsizing long before this angle was reached.

Critical Angle of List.
The critical angle of list is the point at which it can be assumed that critical events will occur. It is not a point that remains constant in all cases. In some vessels, it could be as much as 1/2 of the maximum righting arm. In another case, it could be substantially less than this value. The critical angle depends on the conditions that exist on a vessel at the time of a fire. It can be determined only by qualified personnel as a result of stability calculations combined with professional judgment.

Vessel Stability Concerns.

The most important concern regarding vessel stability is the control of the vessel’s list. The inability to maintain the vessel at a reasonable degree of transverse levelness (side to side) will seriously impact all fire-fighting operations.

Fire-Fighting Factors Affecting Stability
The introduction of large amounts of water into the vessel as a result of fire-fighting operations is likely the most critical factor affecting vessel list. Other factors include:
Intentional flooding of compartments.
Movement of personnel and equipment through watertight doors.

Stability Factors Affecting Fire Fighting.
As a vessel’s list increases, so do the concerns related to fire-fighting activities. As the vessel heels, poor footing on slippery decks can slow or stop fire attack teams. It can be difficult to apply and maintain a foam blanket. Other concerns include:
Increased chance of flammable liquid spills.
Possible closure problems with automatic fire doors.
Strain and possible failure of mooring lines.
Restriction and loss of vessel access/egress.
Damage or injury from shifting of loose objects.
Problems with fixed dewatering drains and suctions.
Loss of vessel machinery due to excessive sustained list.

Vessel Factors Affecting Initial Stability.
The stability of the vessel is described as its ability to resist heeling from the upright position at small angles of inclination. This ability, which is a function of the vessel’s GM, can diminish rapidly as the incident progresses and depends on current vessel conditions such as:
The free surface status of all liquids aboard.
Whether or not the hull is intact.
The flatness of the hull bottom if it has run aground.
Whether the double bottoms are empty or full.
The integrity of watertight boundaries if flooded.

Internal Factors Affecting Overall Stability.
As the vessel destabilizes and list increases to larger angles of inclination, other factors can aggravate the vessel’s worsening condition. These include:
Shifting of loose objects or bulk dry cargo such as grain or coal.
Flooding from unsecured hull openings such as portholes.
Movement of items such as unsecured cargo, machinery, or stores.

Factors Affecting Underway Operations.
The self-propelled movement of a de-stabilized vessel within a confined waterway can be hampered by operational difficulties. If the vessel is suffering a large list, trimmed by the bow, or drawing a draft that is too tight for the available water, operational concerns should include the following:
The steering system might function improperly.
The vessel machinery might not function at large lists.
Maneuvering control might be lost due to the vessel’s proximity to the bottom.
The free surface area might cause the vessel to flop from side to side.

External Factors Affecting Overall Stability.
Planning for the impact of external factors might help to minimize their negative effects. Concurrently, planning for the positive effects might help to maximize some benefits. External factors include:
Adjacent structures, such as piers and wharves.
Mooring lines, if the vessel is listing away from the structure.
Vessel contact with the bottom due to tidal changes.
Contour of the bottom beneath the vessel if contact occurs.
Composition beneath the vessel, such as mud or rock.
Accumulations of snow or ice on high areas.
State of the surrounding sea.
Action of passing vessels (e.g., wake, suction effect).
Unusually intense high winds, if in a significant sailing area.

Basic Stability Information and Resources.

Stability Resources.
An incident commander who possesses a basic understanding of stability concepts and concerns should be able to draw upon the available information resources prior to and during an incident. For purposes of this chapter, information resources are divided into consulting personnel and consulting documents. Stability equipment resources are discussed in this Section.
Consulting Personnel.
Prior to an incident, a regional inventory of stability advisers should be compiled. These individuals or agencies vary depending on locale, except for the identification of the COTP. The COTP offers assistance to all ports within his or her respective zones throughout the United States. The COTP or the COTP designee normally is available during a large-scale incident to provide stability advice. The COTP also can help access and coordinate various federal resources and agencies if the ultimate scope of the situation necessitates additional expertise or equipment, or both. Stability advice also can be obtained from marine-related personnel including:
Vessel officers (master, chief mate, and chief engineer).
Vessel operators/owner representatives, such as the port captain.
Pilots or docking masters.
Harbormasters or port authority representatives.
Salvage masters.
Officers from other vessels.
Marine consultants.
Naval architects.
Maritime academies.
Marine fire-fighting schools.
The National Cargo Bureau.

Consulting Documents.

It is prudent for response organizations to maintain vessel information. This should include information on vessels that visit a port regularly or occasionally, since it could be difficult to gather information during an incident. The preferred approach is to be familiar with the vessel’s onboard documentation prior to an event. General information and copies of vessel documents might be available from the owner or operator if information is needed during an incident. In an emergency, however, some firms might be able to send information via facsimile. Documentation and other information that might be helpful with stability considerations include:
Vessel Trim and Stability Booklet or similar document;
Vessel immersion factor in tons per inch (tpi) or tons per centimeter (tpc);
Vessel general arrangement plan;
Vessel capacity plan;
Vessel fire control plan;
Vessel docking plan;
Vessel cargo plan;
Slide rule used to calculate trim and stress factors or;
Computer or loadmaster used for stability calculations.

Primary Stability Information.

Basic stability data should be gathered during the initial stages of an incident. The methods or sources utilized to obtain the data often affect accuracy. Information should always be verified.

Vessel Drafts.

Most large vessels have draft marks that appear as vertical scales on both sides of the hull at the bow and the stern. They usually are incremented in either feet or meters with the base of the number being the increment (zero) line. Large vessels and barges also have draft marks midship on both sides. For example, on American vessels, the numbers are 6 in. (152 mm) high with 6-in. (152-mm) spaces between them. The base of each number indicates an even 1 ft (0.3 m) of draft; if the water covers half of a number, the ship’s draft is equal to that number of feet plus 3 in. (76 mm). On foreign vessels, the draft is measured in meters with 20 centimeter increments. Draft marks are 10 centimeters high and ten centimeters apart. All drafts should be visually read as soon as possible in order to establish a baseline for future reference. For various reasons, automatic draft gauges for obtaining draft readings remotely should be considered inaccurate. If possible, automatic readings should be avoided as the primary source of draft information. Such readouts should be considered to be a double check of visual hull observations.

Figure 7 - Draft marks reading 7’ 6”

Vessel List.

The angle of transverse inclination normally is obtained while aboard by reading the vessel’s inclinometer. Most vessels have an inclinometer in the wheelhouse on the bridge deck. Some vessels, particularly large ones, have additional inclinometers at other locations, including the engine room control flat, cargo control room, master’s office, chief mate’s office, chief engineer’s office, or at a prominent centerline location on the main deck. As in the case of draft readings, a baseline reading should be established as soon as possible for monitoring purposes.

Vessel Status.

Tank and cargo status should be determined. As mentioned previously, if cargo operations were in progress, the vessel could be considerably more vulnerable to stability problems. This is especially true of bulk carriers and even truer of liquid bulk carriers due to the free surface effect. The location and status of any flooded compartments within the vessel also should be ascertained at this point.

Available Depth of Water.

The minimum depth of water at the shallowest location beneath the vessel should be determined. The vessel’s current deep draft should be subtracted from the water depth to obtain the vertical distance between the vessel and the bottom. Tidal changes also should be incorporated if applicable.

Type of Bottom Material.

If the vessel contacts the bottom, the nature of the bottom can be a very critical factor. For example, the difference between a mud and rock bottom is extremely significant. This condition should be determined as soon as possible and accuracy should be ensured.


The amount of water being put onboard the vessel and the amount anticipated for the hours to come should be calculated. It might be convenient to determine rates in tons per hour, instead of gallons per minute, since stability calculations probably will be worked in tons. See Appendix E for conversion factors.

Secondary Stability Information.

If the stability situation is in doubt, the initial assessment should be followed immediately by a secondary information flow.

Hull Openings.

All direct hull openings, such as portholes or cargo-loading doors, that could allow water to pour aboard in the event a serious list occurs should be assessed. This assessment should take into consideration the needs of the Incident Commander in respect to ventilation of smoke and fire gasses.

Dewatering Capacity.

The vessel’s fixed de- watering capacity and power supply potentials should be determined. It probably is beneficial to convert all rates to tons per hour. Keep in mind that if the vessel loses power then this capacity is lost. The gasoline powered centrifugal pump discharges 465 gallons per minute, the equivalent of about three 1 3/4" handlines operating at full pressure.

Watertight Potentials.

Watertight areas and capabilities of the vessel with regard to flooding resistance should be determined. Special attention should be given to watertight doors and closing mechanisms. The operation and power requirements of watertight doors should be obtained from the vessel's crew. These doors are useful not only to contain flooding but also as a means of stopping the spread of fire.

Mooring Potentials.

The possible dangers to personnel in the event mooring lines fail as a result of severe strain from the vessel listing away from the pier or wharf should be assessed. Synthetic mooring lines can stretch up to 20 percent with instantaneous snap back. The alternatives that are available with the mooring system should be determined and the consequences should be understood.

Vessel Aground.

If the vessel is aground or is in danger of contacting the bottom, other information is needed and could include the following:
Slope of ground beneath vessel;
Shape of vessel’s hull bottom;
Proximity of passing deep-draft traffic;
State of sea forecasts;
Hull stress considerations.

4-4 Dewatering.

Reasons For Dewatering

Unlike a structure built on a foundation, a ship's ability to stay upright is dependent on certain principles of buoyancy and stability. The weight and position of the load are critical factors in this stability.

Firefighters must realize that water can add weight quickly to a vessel. Two hundred and fifty gallons of water weighs one ton. A 2 1/2" combination nozzle is capable of supplying 300 gallons per minute to the fire or well over one ton per minute.

The center of gravity on the vessel shifts as water is applied to the fire. If the center of gravity is raised by applying water to upper decks the ship will tend list to one side. If the list becomes too severe the ship will capsize. Lists of 10 degrees are consider critical.

Large volumes of water low in a vessel can affect its buoyancy. Therefore, it is possible to sink a ship by overloading it with water. Ships have been sunk by loading them to the point that the water they are floating on comes into the hull through openings above the normal water line. If water is removed properly during a marine incident, problems with stability and buoyancy can be minimized. One important element of management during such an incident is proper dewatering.

Principles Of Dewatering

The principles of dewatering are straightforward.

The amount of water being removed must be equal to or greater than the amount of water being applied.
Water removal should start at the highest deck involved and proceed downward.
Moving water from one side of the vessel to the other is not a safe dewatering practice because of free surfacing.
Precautions to avoid pollution of the surrounding sea should be taken before dewatering begins.
To determine list use the ship's inclinometer found on the bridge and in the engine room, or in the master's or mates cabin.
Consult with the ship's engineer to determine critical list.

Dewatering Practices

While it is easy to understand the need for dewatering and the principles governing it, it can be a difficult job to accomplish.

Ships are made to hold water out and contain it when it gets aboard. When water is applied to a fire it is trapped in compartments, passages and holds. To be removed it must be found and pumped away. Occasionally openings must be made to allow it to flow out.

The ship's engineer must be consulted to determine the normal trim and critical list factors. If possible someone should monitor the inclinometer on the ship's bridge or in the engine room. Sometimes it is possible to set up a large inclinometer on the deck that can be monitored by personnel away from the ship. An inclinometer can be made using a plumb bob and a board marked with a semi-circle and hash marks for the degrees.

During a fire incident the water will be filled with debris, which will clog drainage routes and pump strainers. Firefighters must also contend with water that has been heated to the point that it will cause burns to exposed skin. To do a good job of dewatering takes perseverance, a good knowledge of the available equipment and resourcefulness.


The most important aspect of a good dewatering job may be perseverance. There are going to be many obstacles to overcome as long as the fire is burning and water is being applied. Clearing debris from openings and cleaning suction strainers requires constant monitoring. One must also be aware of new areas to dewater as the incident progresses. Dewatering may not be done completely until well after the fire is out in some cases.

Knowledge of Equipment

Knowledge about the use and operation of this equipment is essential for dewatering. It is also important to be aware of the outside resources that are available.

Trash Pump - This is a gas driven centrifugal pump. It uses a hard suction line and is limited by atmospheric pressure. It discharges approximately 460 gpm. It is capable of pumping debris up to 1 1/2" in diameter. (found on Unit-99. E-4 trash pump is rated at 360 gpm). These pumps can NOT be used to pump flammable liquids.

Prosser Pump - This is an electric submersible pump capable of discharging 300 gpm with a 30 ft. head. The discharge rate diminishes as the head increases. It can deliver 175 gpm with a 60 ft. head.
Pneumatic Impact Wrench - This is an air driven wrench, which can be run, off of a high-pressure air bottle. The operator must use a special regulator for the high-pressure bottle being used (supplied in the wrench kit). The wrench is equipped with 5/8" to 1 1/16" sockets. It is used to open hatch covers.
Large Cutting Torch - These are available from outside sources. They must be secured by a Battalion Chief. They are a must for cutting heavy plate and below water levels. Many naval vessels have air arc cutting equipment on board.
SLICE Tool -These units can be used to cut through most anything. They are portable cutting units that use an exothermic cutting rod and oxygen to slice through nearly any material.
Rescue Saw (with metal cutting blade) - This saw will works in place of a cutting torch for some jobs (found on ladder companies).
Vacuum Pump Trucks - To avoid water pollution during dewatering operations and to collect the water in a closed container. Large vacuum trucks are available from hazardous waste disposal companies. These must be secured by a Battalion/Acting Chief or higher ranking officer or coordinated through the attending USCG Officer. It is possible to use tank barges as reservoirs for polluted water, which must be removed during dewatering.
Booms and Pollution Control Equipment - These are available through the US Coast Guard for containing oil and other liquids around a vessel. A Battalion/Acting Chief or higher-ranking officer must order them. At the beginning of an incident contact the USCG to alert them of the possibility of pollution.


The difference between success and failure may be a firefighter's ability to apply a given tool or technique to the job of dewatering. No two problems are alike and the person who can adapt his skills and tools to the job will be an asset during a tough dewatering operation.


Follow the Rules of Fire-Ground Safety. When going onto a vessel for a dewatering job use all the precautions you would use when fire fighting or doing rescue work. You are entering a dangerous environment that can change rapidly and without warning. Beware of hot water. The water that accumulates during firefighting operations can be very hot and deep.

Plan ahead before dewatering. Consider where the water will go before moving it to avoid creating problems with stability or pollution. Also consider the effects on buoyancy when opening compartments that have openings below the water line and air trapped at the top.

Water Weight.

Aboard most large vessels, weight is measured in long tons [2240 lb (2024 lbs. per metric ton)]. A gallon of salt water weighs about 8.5 lb (3.8 kg), while fresh water weighs slightly less at 8.3 pounds per gallon. This is equivalent to approximately 264 gal (999 L) per long ton. It should be noted that these figures apply to U.S. gallons. Imperial gallons (1.1 U.S. gal) are used aboard British, Canadian, or other vessels and should be adjusted accordingly.


A 2 1/2-in. (64-mm) attack line delivering 250 gpm (9461 lpm) adds approximately 64 tons (58 m tons) of weight to the vessel each hour. A 1 1/2-in. (38-mm) line can deliver that quantity, or approximately 25 tons (22.7 m tons) per hour.

Vessel Fixed Pumps.

Vessels usually have bilge pump capability for most machinery spaces and large compartments that are situated in the lower parts of the vessel. Some of these spaces can include the following:
Cargo holds;
Main engine room;
Boiler room;
Shaft alley area;
Cargo pump rooms;
Forward machinery space;
Thruster rooms.

Fixed Pump Suctions.

Vessel bilge pumps usually are attached to fixed piping and, therefore, have no flexibility regarding movement and positioning of the pumps’ suctions. However, these pumps often have the flexibility to “cross over” and draw from a varied number of fixed suctions. As a result, the fixed system is limited to pumping only water that settles into the lower areas of the vessel and is susceptible to clogging. The capacity of fixed pumps needs to be determined, since they might pump less than 500 gpm. Water that accumulates in upper spaces needs to be removed by some alternate means.
Fixed Pump Power.

Some older steam vessels have steam reciprocating bilge pumps, but most have electric bilge pumps that are powered by the vessel’s generators. If the vessel’s main generators fail, the pumps probably will be useless. Emergency generators often are not able to supply sufficient power to operate both fire and bilge pumps simultaneously. If electrical power has been secured in the vicinity of fire-fighting operations (due to shock hazards), the vessel’s pumps might not be available for use.

Vessel Portable Pumps.

Although some vessels have a few small portable diaphragm pumps that run on compressed air, most vessels provide limited portable pump capability. Small workboats such as some fishing vessels may carry emergency dewatering pumps.

Vessel Drainage System.

Drains located onboard most vessels are designed to gravity-drain most spaces that are above the vessel’s normal waterline through the hull into the sea. Spaces that are at or below the waterline often are drained into the vessel’s bilges. Whether they drain overboard or into the bilge, these drains (called “scuppers”) are generally small in diameter, making them vulnerable to blockage by debris that would almost certainly be present throughout fire-fighting efforts.

Swimming Pools.

If the involved ship has swimming pools, water should be removed from pools, beginning with the highest pool.

If there is a sanitary drain available at the floor level, the fixture (toilet, shower, or bidet) should be removed to allow the water to flow into the holding tanks, which are well below the waterline. The resultant shift of weight lowers the center of gravity.

Portable Pumps Brought Onboard.

Arrangements for vessel dewatering should be made without delay. Moving portable pumps onboard necessitates hoisting equipment and numerous personnel to assist with positioning. Dewatering considerations should be automatic and should be addressed without delay if the fire is not quickly suppressed. Sources of portable pumps include other than VFD:
Industrial pump suppliers.
Salvage companies.
U.S. Navy installations.
USCG strike teams.
Pollution cleanup contractors.

Portable Pump Types.

Pumps are powered by a variety of methods, including electricity, air, gasoline, and water. Of all pumps, the water eductor or ejector pump is probably one of the most efficient devices to position within the vessel. It works on the principle of a venturi and has no moving parts. These units are extremely lightweight and need minimum supervision once they are operational. However, hoses on the discharge site need to remain clear and free of kinks, or water can back up into the space being dewatered.

Cutting of Holes.

In areas of the superstructure where the metal is relatively thin, it might be preferable to cut holes to allow water to run out. Cutting holes in vessels can be extremely dangerous. Holes never should be cut without thoroughly reviewing the consequences and obtaining permission from the appropriate authority; generally, this authority is the ship’s master. Exothermic torches can outperform oxyacetylene torches in fire and flooding conditions.

Stability Analysis and Monitoring.

Critical Angle of List.

Once the vessel status is determined as part of the primary information, the vessel’s GM should be computed for its current condition. The GM should be used in conjunction with the vessel’s Trim and Stability Booklet to determine the critical angle of list for the vessel’s current condition.

Vessel Drafts.

Drafts should be monitored at least every 1/2-hour. If the vessel is listing, the drafts on the low side of the vessel will be greater than those on the high side. For this reason, it is prudent to use the average of the two sides. Also, the midship draft should be exactly halfway between the forward and after drafts. If the draft is more than 6 in. (152 mm) off of this halfway point, this could be an indication that the hull is being subjected to severe stress due to hogging and sagging. The vessel’s drafts should be monitored and recorded for at least 4 hours after discontinuing waterflow into the vessel to ensure there is no change in vessel stability.

Tons per Inch or Tons Per Centimeter Immersion.

The Trim and Stability Booklet for a large vessel generally includes a hydrostatic table that describes the vessel’s tons per inch (tpi) immersion or tons per centimeter factors for various drafts. These figures represent the weight, in tons, necessary to sink the vessel 1 in. (25.4 mm) or 1 centimeter. Since this refers to the vessel’s mean sinkage, each inch of sinkage directly corresponds with each inch of draft at the midship draft marks. This fact should be used to visually confirm the calculated weight of water being placed aboard the vessel.

Vessel Listing at Pier.

Generally, it is preferable to have the vessel list away from the pier or wharf so that list can be monitored as it progresses. This might require slacking the mooring lines and adjusting vessel access ramps. The alternative, to allow the vessel to lean against the structure, would not only interfere with the list monitoring but could also lead to damage to both the vessel and the adjacent structure. The vessel’s draft probably will increase on the side of the list. This fact, combined with the generally deeper water away from the shore-based structure, also suggests a list away from the pier as more appropriate and safer than a list toward the pier.

Increase of Draft Due to List.

Due to the relative flatness of most vessel bottoms, the draft increases as the vessel lists. An approximate value of the increase is equal to 1/2 the vessel’s breadth times the sine of the angle of list. The formula is as follows:
Increase in draft = beam/2 ´ sine angle of list
Vessel with 92-ft (28-m) beam listing at angle of 8 degrees
92/2 ´ sine 8 degrees =
46 ´ 0.1392 = 6.4-ft (2-m) increase in draft.

Stability Tactics

Vessel List.

Generally, the prime stability concern of an incident commander is to minimize the vessel’s list. Control of the list can be accomplished through a variety of tactics and depends on the cause(s) of the list and the particular circumstances involved.

Causes of List.

The two basic causes of vessel list are:
A negative GM; or
An off-center position of the vessel’s center of gravity.

The list can be the result of either one of the causes or both causes in combination. If negative GM is the cause, any transfers of weight within the vessel should be very carefully considered before being performed. It is possible that a transverse shifting of weight to correct list due to negative GM could result in a worse situation.

List Correction.

If the list is due solely to the accumulation of water through fire-fighting efforts, then the preferred tactic for corrective action is to remove the water. Corrective measures are more complex for other causes of list, such as progressive flooding or large weight shifts. The following outlines a sequence of general actions to limit and improve an impaired stability situation and its associated list:
Determination and establishment of flooding boundaries;
Removal of water from partially flooded areas (removal from free surface areas first);
Jettison of topside weight.
Complete removal of water from solidly flooded areas;
Transfer of weight as appropriate (usually liquids);
Addition of weight as appropriate (counterflooding).

Establish Flooding Boundaries.

Boundaries should be established to enclose the area subject to flooding. Vertical as well as lateral perimeters should be planned. Action should be swift and efficient. Aboard vessels such as the Washington State Ferries, this would include closing the watertight doors to establish boundaries.

Free Surface Reduction.

There are two basic ways to reduce free surface:
The flooded compartment is filled completely; or
The flooded compartment is emptied completely.

Filling might be a faster, more convenient approach but increases the vessel’s weight and draft, and possibly increases the list. Emptying the compartment is far more desirable.
Weight Removal. Removal of liquid and solid weights from higher locations onboard should lower the center of gravity, improve stability, and help improve the list.
Weight Transfer. Transfer of weight is normally accomplished with liquids, since the movement of large numbers of solid objects can be impractical. Methods of transfer can include pumping and gravitating. Weight transfer is not recommended if free surface is the cause of or a significant factor in the list.

Weight Addition.

Similar to transfer, liquid weight addition usually is the most practical. This usually is accomplished through counter flooding the compartment(s) with seawater. Counter flooding should never be used if free surface is the cause of the list. Counter flooding should always start with the lowest spaces available, such as double bottoms or low water tanks. The inherent problems of free surface effect, and the additional weight, make counter flooding or counter ballasting a last resort.

Scuttling or Beaching.

If it becomes apparent that the vessel is going to be lost due to capsizing or because of a fire too extensive to control, the only alternative might be to sink (scuttle) the vessel. This decision is made by the COTP in conjunction with involved parties. Under these two circumstances, it might be necessary to sink the vessel at the pier by overall flooding. If time allows, it is preferable to have the vessel towed to a suitable beaching ground. It then can be sunk awash without damage to the hull from a rocky bottom and without creating an obstruction to normal shipping.
4-5 Organizational Resources

Vessel Owners and Operators.

There are many different combinations of vessel owners and operators. Owners and operators range from individuals to small companies to large shipping lines. There can be many owners or only one. Some owners are involved with the daily operation of the vessel; others are far removed from such activities. Some owners are also the operators, but this usually is not the case. Sometimes vessels are chartered or leased many times over, further complicating the situation. Most of the time, the owner or operator does not own the cargo, and there can be many different cargo owners. It can become very difficult to determine who owns or operates the vessel, who represents these individuals, and who has the authority to make decisions concerning the protection and safety of the vessel.
The master of the vessel usually represents the owner or operator but sometimes does not have the authority to make all decisions. Because most owners and operators do not have offices/agents in all of the vessel’s ports of call, many large organizations send owner or operator representatives to a fire scene. This representative, sometimes called the “port engineer” or “port captain,” usually has some technical training, experience in the particular trade of the vessel, and the authority to make decisions and spend money.
Besides decision-making and technical expertise, the owner or operator usually can provide funding. It is the owner or operator, and eventually the owner or operator’s insurance companies, who usually bear much of the cost of the fire-fighting operation, such as for fire-fighting agents, tugs, pilots, cranes, barges, divers, and pollution cleanup.

Marine Terminal Owner or Operator.

The owner of the marine terminal is sometimes also the operator of the terminal. However, often the operator leases the property and equipment from the owner (the city, port authority, or private corporation), and the owner is removed from the daily operation. In either case, determining who owns or operates a marine terminal is usually not as much of a problem as it is in the case of a vessel because the terminal owner/operator office usually is located at the terminal.
Marine terminal owners and operators often can supply many resources to the fire-fighting operation. They can provide security by keeping unwanted visitors off the terminal during a fire, and they can provide communications by using fixed and portable systems on the terminal. They can supply cargo-handling equipment (e.g., forklifts, trucks, and cranes) that often are needed to move and protect threatened cargo. The owner or operator also can provide a location for a command post, fire-fighting hoses and water, and sometimes foam, dry chemical, and a fire-fighting brigade. The fire-fighting equipment available on the terminal usually can be found in the “Coast Guard Fire Fighting Contingency Plan.”

Terminal Fire Brigades.

Some large marine terminals, such as bulk oil terminals, and some large shipyards maintain private fire brigades on their properties. These brigades are trained specifically to fight the type of fires that could occur on the property they protect. They can be a great source of specific information concerning the cargoes and hazards on their particular property. They also can be the source of additional fire equipment and extinguishing agents, such as foam and dry chemical.

Shipping Agents.

Shipping agents are the port’s commercial representatives of the vessel owner or operator. The agent schedules pilots, small repairs, and vendors; notifies federal agents of the vessel arrival; makes arrangements for berths, line handlers, fuel, water, and electricity; and ensures that all the needs of the vessel and crew are met while in port.
Some vessel operators, such as large shipping lines, act as their own shipping agents; but shipping agents are not vessel owners or operators. Shipping agents always know the identity of the owners and operators. They are in direct contact with the person or persons who control the operation and movement of the vessel and, therefore, often can obtain permission decisions from the appropriate person. Shipping agents can be contacted through the Marine Exchange.


All foreign vessels and all documented U.S. flag vessels are required to carry Pilots. Most tug/barge combinations do not carry pilots. A Pilot will board incoming vessels prior to entering the Columbia River and pilot them to their destinations. On the outbound leg the Pilot will board the vessel at the berth, undock it, and pilot it out past the Columbia River bar. When dealing with the possibility of moving a burning vessel at anchor the Pilots will work in conjunction with the Coast Guard to determine the best course of action in moving the vessel.
Pilots usually have very reliable information concerning the arrival and departure of vessels in the port. They also have a great deal of knowledge and experience with respect to local weather and currents.

Port Authorities.

Port authorities are federal, provincial, state, regional, or local government agencies, or a combination thereof, that manage the operations of the ports under their jurisdiction. They often own or operate terminals in the port and, therefore, can provide many of the same resources as do other terminal owners and operators. Because of their legal authority over the port, they play a large role in the overall planning and coordination of vessel fire protection.

Tug and Barge Companies.

Tug and barge companies can provide services that are vital during a vessel fire. Some operate tugs that have the horsepower and equipment to move large vessels within the port. These tugs could be needed to move a burning vessel to a safer or more accessible area of the port. They also could be needed to tow a burning vessel from offshore to a safe harbor, or the reverse. Some operate deck and tank barges, which might be needed as a platform from which to fight a fire or transfer fuel from a burning vessel. Some of these companies provide all these services.
Another service some of these companies provide is fire-fighting support. Many, but not all, tugs are equipped with fire pumps or monitors, or both, to provide a water stream from the waterside. The type of equipment that a company operates and its fire-fighting capability usually is found in the “USCG Fire Fighting Contingency Plan.” The on-scene Coast Guard representative can be consulted to determine if any of the resources can be beneficial to the fire department.

Fire-Fighting Agent Supplies.

Beyond the usual and well-known commercial suppliers, military installations and other marine terminals often can be the source of fire-fighting agents, especially foam and CO2. Shipyards, ship chandlers, airports, and petrochemical facilities also might be able to supply some fire-fighting agents.


In the Port of Vancouver longshoremen load or unload much of the cargo entering or leaving the port on vessels. An exception is bulk liquid cargo, which usually is loaded or unloaded by the vessel’s crew and marine terminal personnel. Some longshoremen work for a stevedoring company, while some work for the marine terminal. If containers or cargoes need to be off-loaded, appropriate arrangements need to be made.

Marine Construction Companies.

Marine construction companies can provide expertise in the construction of such structures as piers, wharves, bridges, and marinas. They usually operate cranes on barges that can be towed throughout the port to provide lifting capability from the waterside. They could be used to clear damaged or undamaged structures and to construct temporary piers, wharves, or bridges. They usually are sources of underwater welding.

Marine Chemist.

As a result of normal construction and design, vessels usually contain many enclosed, poorly ventilated spaces. The atmospheres in these spaces often are tested by a marine chemist to protect the people entering them. They test these atmospheres for the content of oxygen and harmful, explosive, and flammable vapors.
This information is very valuable during a vessel fire when deciding which vessel compartments need to be protected. It also is necessary during overhaul at regular intervals to protect the people working in the enclosed space. The vessel’s crew also might have some limited gas detection equipment and ability.

Marine Surveyors.

Marine surveyors usually are private consultants, contracted by the owners or operators of vessels, who survey damaged vessels and recommend needed repairs. They have technical expertise and local knowledge in vessel construction and repair. There are some large marine surveying companies, but most surveyors are independent and self-employed. They are hired to ensure that the vessel gets the proper, most economical repair and that fire damage to the vessel and its cargo is kept to a minimum.

Marine Salvage Companies/Salvors.

These companies salvage severely damaged or sunken vessels. They usually own or operate very sophisticated equipment, such as floating cranes, inflatable lifting bags, deep- diving equipment, and underwater welding and cutting equipment. If a vessel is sinking and needs to be kept afloat, or has sunk and needs to be raised, these companies have the expertise and equipment to accomplish the job. The U.S. Navy Supervisor of Salvage (SUPSALV) can be contacted through the COTP also has this type of expertise and equipment.

Law Enforcement Agencies.

Various government agencies have law enforcement duties in the port area. The Federal Bureau of Investigation investigates crimes that occur on U.S. vessels or involve U.S. citizens. The U.S. Marshals of the Department of Justice are empowered to detain or seize vessels and crews. All cargo imported into the United States is inspected and cleared for entry by U.S. Customs. The Immigration and Naturalization Service examines crew lists and allows foreign crew members to enter the United States. The U.S. Coast Guard enforces many of the maritime laws of the United States.
Some state and local governments also maintain specialized maritime law enforcement agencies. The existence and type of marine, environmental, and conservation police or agencies vary within each port and each state. These agencies usually share jurisdiction with their federal counterparts.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers oversees the dredging of all navigable waters of the United States and operates a few dredges located throughout the country. These dredges can be used for emergency dredging to gain access to an area or to free a grounded vessel. The Corps also operates smaller boats that clear flotsam (debris) from channels. These boats can be used to clear floating combustible material from areas threatened by fire.

Military Installations.

Military installations usually are good sources of fire-fighting agents and personnel. Fire stations on these installations usually are well equipped and can often provide compressed air to refill air bottles, foam, pumps, tankers, and fire fighters. In addition, naval bases usually have tugs equipped with fire monitors. Lists of the equipment available at these installations usually are found in the “USCG Fire Fighting Contingency Plan.”


In most major ports, there are diving companies that specialize in commercial marine work. They inspect and do minor repairs to structures such as vessels, docks, and bridges. They usually are equipped to perform functions such as underwater welding, cleaning, sawing, and drilling. Divers might be needed to make emergency investigations or repairs. In some areas, public agencies provide divers.

Launch Services.

Launch services provide transportation for passengers and equipment from a pier to vessels at anchor or in the channel. They are used to transport crews, federal agents, spare parts, and food to vessels without a berth. Their boats usually are highly maneuverable and relatively fast. They can be used during a vessel fire to provide additional transportation of personnel and equipment to the burning vessel.

Ship Chandlers.

Most vessel operational needs can be purchased through a ship chandler/marine supplier. If the chandler doesn’t stock a certain item, he or she knows where it can be purchased. A chandler usually can supply fire-fighting agents and equipment and spare parts for fire-fighting equipment and machinery found on vessels.

Foreign Consulates and Language Schools.

Most vessels entering U.S. ports carry foreign crews that speak many different languages. If the vessel’s English-speaking senior officers are injured and translators are needed, foreign consulates and language schools in the area are good sources of translators. A list of translators usually can be found in the “USCG Fire Fighting Contingency Plan.” The use of hospital translators is a good resource.

Other Organizational Resources.

The following is a list of other organizations that can assist or provide resources during a vessel fire:
Federal and state fire agencies;
State/county fire marshal;
Emergency management agencies/civil defense;
Bridge and tunnel authorities;
Red Cross/relief organizations;
Utility service companies;
News media representatives;
Self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) refilling sources;
Hospital supply companies;
Fast food restaurants;
Welding companies;
Oil and hazardous materials cleanup companies;
Private fire-fighting services;
Aircraft reconnaissance sources;
Maritime Co-ops
Merchant Exchanges

4-6 Strategy and Tactics


Vessel fire-fighting strategy necessitates that the incident commander choose between an offensive or defensive strategy. The danger to fire-fighting personnel and exposures needs to be weighed against the dangers to the vessel and cargo.
The starting point of the marine tactical operation as it is with other types of structures is Size-up.


As with any strategy, the very first consideration is the presence of trapped victims. This would be the greatest concern on passenger vessels such as ferries or cruise ships. On cargo type ships it may be difficult to account for everyone, or determine if anyone is trapped. Some freighters also carry a small number of passengers. It is desirable during the size-up phase to concentrate efforts on determining the nature and extent of the situation, and assign search and rescue to their usual place as part of the tactical operation.
Due to design configuration of the many types of vessels in operation, and to the equipment in use aboard, search and rescue of crewmembers and/or passengers will be extremely difficult and hazardous. Assistance from the ship’s crew or repair supervisors may be necessary to safely overcome hazards such as high pressure steam leaks, electrical shock, rotating equipment, open decks, and difficult accesses.

Vessel Identification

Identifying the type of vessel is very important because it will give clues as to the form of cargo on board. It will help prepare you for any special hazards that may be associated with a particular type of ship. The many classes of ships and their structural differences also make vessel identification important because it may seriously affect the visual signs that are the first indication of the nature of the incident. A Technician Level fire fighter should have a working knowledge of the vessels that call in their response area.

Visual Signs

Visual signs to consider during the size-up of vessel fires will include the familiar ones, as well as some unique to the vessels.
Besides identifying the hull type, the first visual sign is likely to be the location of smoke or fire.
General stability condition of the vessel. Does the vessel look safe to board? How many degrees of list does the vessel have? What is the maximum list the vessel will take?
What is the current operating condition of the vessel? Are they loading, unloading or are they undergoing yard work?


All exposures are important, but in this phase consider dockside exposures. Many piers are of wood pile construction and present a significant exposure hazard. In addition, vessels moored nearby and equipment and personnel on the pier may present exposures and other operational difficulties, which must be dealt with.

Offensive Strategy

Where resources are adequate and the vessel’s environment is tenable, an offensive strategy might be appropriate. The incident commander can choose from a number of strategies, ranging from an aggressive handline attack to remote agent application or smothering.
Strategy is goal oriented. The incident commander should develop a list of desired outcomes. Tactics should be continually evaluated against the desired outcomes. The ability to achieve tactical objectives serves as a guide to the feasibility of the strategic goals.

Offensive Strategy - Indirect Attack

The indirect attack commences when the determination is made that an immediate direct attack is impossible. A detailed examination of the ship’s plans will be needed to seal off the fire area. Establish fire boundaries at access points, ventilation ducts, portholes, and all other opening to contain the fire at that point. Cooling exposures and removing combustibles will but time for analyzing the situation and choosing the proper course of action. An indirect attack includes the use of the vessel’s own fixed fire extinguishing system, or an agent applied from the outside but applied indirectly to the fire, usually by flooding the space with the agent. Agents used for flooding are CO2, halon, nitrogen, water or foam. Care must be taken when using water as a flooding agent because it may create stability problems or cause undue stresses on the vessel’s structure.
For a loaded cargo hold or a well-involved engine room fire and indirect attack may be the only method possible.
Figure 8 – Indirect attack using foam
Carbon Dioxide Flooding Operations

General Information

Some ship fires can effectively be extinguished by the indirect application of CO2. Carbon dioxide extinguishes fire mainly by smothering. It dilutes the air surrounding the fire until the oxygen content is too low to support combustion. For this reason it is effective on Class B fires, where the main consideration is to keep the flammable vapors separated from oxygen in the air. Flowing CO2 produces static electricity, which may ignite flammable vapors. CO2 has a very limited cooling effect. It can be used on Class A fires in confined spaces, where the atmosphere may be diluted sufficiently to stop combustion. However, CO2 extinguishment takes time. The concentration of carbon dioxide must be maintained until all the fire is out. Constraint and patience are needed.
Although this method may be more time consuming, it is generally safer for the fire fighter, and may also result in less damage to the ship and its cargo. Bulk CO2 may be supplied by a large tank truck which carries CO2 at 300 psi; or it may be supplied by a bank of 50 to 100 pound bottles which store CO2 at 850 psi. The CO2 might be used to augment a fixed CO2 system on board a ship, or supplied directly into a space. Consider using CO2 in the following circumstances:
Conventional fire fighting methods would expose personnel to undue risks.
There would be excessive delay in getting direct access to fire.
Water used to extinguish fire may damage cargo or impair stability.
CO2 should NOT be used to extinguish fires involving;

These materials generate their own oxygen and CO2 will not extinguish them.
CO2 is NOT effective on COMBUSTIBLE metals such as, but not limited to;


These metals burn so hot that the CO2 decomposes into carbon and oxygen. The fire is then intensified by the addition of oxygen and carbon, a fuel.
Procedures for Bulk CO2 Flooding Operations:

Position bulk CO2 supply as close as possible to CO2 system manifold or CO2 discharge point. Avoid lays over 150 feet. New bulk CO2 tankers have a CO2 gas by-pass manifold system, which forces the flow of the liquid CO2. If this system is available, longer hose lays are possible.
Make sure there are no restrictions in the hose line. If using hose of two different sizes, always pump CO2 from the larger line to the smaller line. These precautions will help to prevent a freeze-up in the line. When CO2 expands, it forms dry ice, which will plug the hose line.
Attach a hose cap with a discharge orifice to the end of the CO2 hose, if CO2 will be pumped directly into a compartment. The openings in the caps vary from 1/4 to 1/2 inch diameter, depending upon the size of the compartment to inert. These discharge caps slow down the discharge rate and keep the pressure up in the CO2 line, thereby lowering the chances of a freeze-up in the line. If the bulk CO2 tanker has a CO2 gas by-pass manifold system, no caps are need and the 1 inch open butt can be used.
Using hardware provided, securely attach the hose to the point of discharge, which may be a sounding tube, vent duct, hatch, manhole, or other opening. Due to the variety of situations, which may be encountered, the method of securing the discharge hose will be different in each case. Use cutting torch to make holes in the exterior hull to weld CO2 nozzles into has proven effective. Nozzles attached to pipes that extend 3 to 4 feet inside the hull allow for more efficient distribution of CO2 because of the need to clear the insulation and obstructions. Ground the end of the discharge hose to the hull of the ship. A vessel is grounded if it is in the water and nozzles welded to the hull are therefore grounded.
Tie down hose with utility straps every 50 feet, and as close as possible to discharge point.
Shut off ventilation and close all openings to the compartment, with the exception of one opening at the top of the compartment, which should be remotely located from the point of the CO2 application if possible. This will allow the displaced gases in the space to vent out freely. Avoiding an over pressurization which could damage the vessel.
Order CO2 after calculating the amount of CO2 needed to achieve a 34% or greater concentration for Class B fires; 65% or greater concentration for Class A fires. To calculate the amount of CO2 needed to get 34% concentration, use 1 pound for every 18 cubic feet of volume; 65% concentration, use 1 pound of CO2 per 9 cubic feet of volume. There are special pre-calculated tables that give the exact concentration for various products. That information is available through a Marine Chemist.
Take CO2, oxygen and temperature measurements in the compartment before, during and after CO2 flooding operation. These measurements should be remote from the CO2 nozzles and at different elevations in the compartments being flooded. Continue taking these measurements at intervals specified by the Incident Commander. Record these measurements; they will be used to monitor progress in extinguishing the fire, and determining the need to apply more CO2. The same person should be taking these reads to ensure consistency. A good rule of thumb for leaving CO2 in a cargo space is to wait until temperature readings have stabilized at near ambient temperature inside the space for at least 24 hours.

Instruments that are required for a CO2 flooding operation are: the Dräger and Fyrite (for CO2 levels), the MSA Passport ( for oxygen and carbon monoxide levels), and thermocouples (for temperature measurements).


Stand clear of the entire CO2 operations during CO2 flooding, especially the area around the discharge point. The hose is under a great deal of pressure and could whip around.
Don’t touch any part of the CO2 hose lay with your bare hands during flooding operations; your hands may freeze to the hose or fittings.
Always wear SCBA’s when in any confined area that could receive concentrations of CO2 from leaking fittings or venting from compartments. This includes compartments aboard vessels, which contain CO2 storage bottles. Under no circumstances should any personnel be allowed to enter these spaces during or after the release of CO2 from storage bottles.
Never enter a compartment that has been flooded with CO2 without wearing SCBA, until the compartment has been thoroughly ventilated and tested to contain at least 19.5% oxygen. CO2 is an odorless, colorless gas with a density about 50% greater than air.
Never use cutting torch, friction saw, or other heat or spark-producing device to make an opening into a compartment of ship, unless the possibility of an explosion can be absolutely ruled out.
Station a fire fighter with a portable radio at the bulk CO2 supply point. On direction, this fire fighter shall be prepared to immediately shut down the CO2 supply. If the CO2 is being transferred with the help of a positive displacement pump, shut the pump down before securing any valves to avoid damaging the pump or piping.

Minimum % concentrations of CO2 to be used for extinguishment:

Acetylene 66 Ethylene 49
Acetone 31 Ethylene Dichloride 25
Benzole 37 Ethylene Oxide 53
Benzene 37 Gasoline 34
Butadiene 41 Hexane 35
Butane 34 Hydrogen 78
Carbon Disulfide 66 Isooctane 36
Carbon Monoxide 64 Kerosene 34
Coal or Natural Gas 37 Methane 30
Cyclopropane 37 Methyl Alcohol 31
Dowtherm 46 Pentane 35
Ethane 40 Propane 36
Ethyl Ether 46 Propylene 36
Ethyl Alcohol 43 Quench & Lube Oils 34

Dry electrical wiring insulation hazards in general - 50%
Small electrical machines, wire enclosures under 2,000 cu.ft. 50%
Record (bulk paper) storage and ducts - 65%
Fur storage vaults and dust collectors - 75%

NOTE: Most flammable liquids require approximately 34% concentration of CO2.

Most combustible materials require approximately 65% concentration of CO2.

Pounds of CO2 Required to Achieve a 34% Concentration

Cu. Ft. Area Pounds of CO2 Per Cu. Ft. Conversion Factor

0 - 140 1 pound per 14 .072 x total cu.ft.
141 - 500 1 pound per 15 .067 x total cu.ft.
501 - 1,600 1 pound per 16 .063 x total cu.ft.
1,601 - 4,500 1 pound per 18 .056 x total cu.ft.
4,501 - 50,000 1 pound per 20 .050 x total cu.ft.
over 50,000 1 pound per 22 .046 x total cu.ft.


40,000 cubic feet x conversion factor .050 = 2,000 pounds of CO2.


40,000 cubic feet divided by 18 = 2222 pounds of CO2.
This means that 2,000 pounds of CO2 is required to achieve a 34% concentration in this area.
For higher concentrations, refer to Table III.
Any openings that cannot be closed at time of extinguishment shall be compensated for by the addition of not less then one pound of CO2 per square foot of opening.

Total pounds of CO2 required for the concentration percentages listed below: The total pounds of CO2 for a 34% concentration as determined by using TABLE II times the conversion factor listed below.
35% = 1.05 45% = 1.40 55% = 1.85 65% = 2.46 75% = 3.22

36% = 1.08 46% = 1.44 56% = 1.90 66% = 2.53 76% = 3.30

37% = 1.11 47% = 1.48 57% = 1.95 67% = 2.60 77% = 3.40

38% = 1.14 48% = 1.52 58% = 2.00 68% = 2.67 78% = 3.50

39% = 1.18 49% = 1.56 59% = 2.07 69% = 2.74 79% = 3.60

40% = 1.21 50% = 1.60 60% = 2.14 70% = 2.81 80% = 3.71

41% = 1.25 51% = 1.65 61% = 2.20 71% = 2.89 81% = 3.82

42% = 1.28 52% = 1.70 62% = 2.26 72% = 2.98 82% = 3.95

43% = 1.32 53% = 1.75 63% = 2.32 73% = 3.06

44% = 1.36 54% = 1.80 64% = 2.39 74% = 3.14


Using TABLE II, 40,000 cu.ft. x .050 = 2,000 pounds of CO2 to achieve a 34% concentration.
To achieve a 65% concentration, multiply the conversion factor for 65%, by the 2,000 pounds required for a 34% concentration. 2.46 x 2,000 pounds = 4,920 pounds of CO2 required.
40,000 cu.ft. divided by 9 = 4,444 pounds of CO2 for a 65% concentration
Any openings that cannot be closed at time of extinguishment shall be compensated for by the addition of not less then one pound of CO2 per square foot of opening.
Foam Operations

General Information

The use of Class B foam for combating petroleum fires is not new but recent advances in Class A foam and technological improvements in delivery devices has added valuable tools to the marine firefighters arsenal.

Foam is a blanket of bubbles that extinguishes fire mainly by smothering and cooling. The bubbles are formed by mixing air, water and foam concentrate. The result is called a foam solution. This solution is lighter than the lightest flammable liquids. Thus the foam solution will form a blanket on the surface of burning liquids.

Class B Foam

Class B foam is comprised of several types. The main ones are: Protein Foams; Alcohol Foams; and Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF). AFFF has become the most commonly found foam and the following is based on the use of that foam. The foam is made from surfactants, through a fairly complex chemical process. The result is an extinguishing agent that is highly effective when used according to the manufacturer’s directions. AFFF is generally used in one of two concentrations, 3% or 6%. The higher concentration is used on polar solvents such as alcohol. AFFF has a low viscosity and spreads quickly over the burning material Water draining from this type of foam has a low surface tension and so can be used on mixed class A and B fires. The draining water penetrates and cools the class A material while the film blankets the class B material. AFFF can be produced from fresh water, salt water or brackish water, however it should not be mixed with other foams. The foam concentrate is generally shipped in 5-gallon pails, 55-gallon drums, and 250 gallon totes. The properties of the AFFF currently in use by the VFD are as follows:

3M Light Water ATC Plus

Nominal use concentration: 3% on Hydrocarbons
6% on Polar Solvents
Specific Gravity @ 77 deg F 1.05
Density: 8.75 lbs/gal
Minimum use temperature: 5 deg F
Storage temperature: 5 deg F to 120 deg F
pH @ 77 deg F 8
Appearance: Amber thixotropic liquid
Calculation of Foam Application Rate for Cargo Tank Fires

This formula will provide an estimate of the required foam concentrate required and the minimum delivery rate for cargo tank fires. It is assumed that the cargo tank or tanks are rectangular in shape.

Length x Breadth
Constant X 0.8
Total Square Feet
Application Rate X 0.16
Foam Solution Req.
Application Time X 65 minutes
Total Solution
Foam Percentage X 0.03 percent
Total Concentrate

It must be stressed that the “total concentrate” is the amount required for the initial attack and does not take into account reapplication for hotspots, drain time, etc. The attack must not commence until this amount of foam is available. The application time is calculated from NFPA 11 “Standards for Low Expansion Foam” and is considered a minimum time. The formula above is based on a 3% concentration. For polar solvents or other liquids requiring a 6% foam solution change the “foam percentage multiplier” to 0.06.

Class A Foam

Class A foam was originally designed for firefighting in wildland/urban interface areas and has been around since the 1980’s. Class A foam is a synthetic foam concentrate developed for use at low concentrations of 0.1 to 1.0 percent. These low concentrations make the foam a cost effective tool for use in fighting fires in ordinary combustibles. At higher concentrations the solution can be used for vapor suppression of hydrocarbons. Foam concentrate can be premixed into the apparatus water tank; however, this has several drawbacks, including possible corrosion of the tank, stripping of the fire pump lubricants, and contamination of the foam solution with rust and scale from the tank, which may adversely affect the ability to produce the type of foam desired. Class A foam is highly biodegradable.

Foam Application

All foam must be mixed in a manner consistent with the manufacturer’s specifications. Eduction systems vary from fixed to portable inline systems. The application of foam solution should be consistent with the size and type of material burning. The attack should not begin until sufficient resources are on hand to mount a continuous effort for a significant amount of time.

Shipboard Foam Systems

Certain vessels, primarily tankers, are equipped with foam monitors located on the main deck. These vessels may also have fixed foam extinguishing nozzles located in spaces such as engine rooms and pump rooms. A foam delivery system consisting of a foam tank and electric proportioning tank are located near, but usually not in, the engine room. These systems are designed to deliver about 20 to 30 minutes of foam using the ship’s firemain system and pumps. The vessel’s engineers should be consulted to determine the proper operation of the system.

Figure 9 – Foam monitor

Defensive Strategy.

Where resources are insufficient for extinguishment or the danger to personnel, environment, or exposures outweighs other considerations, a defensive strategy may be appropriate. The incident commander’s options are containment and exposure protection or removal of the vessel to an appropriate location. The permission of the USCG Captain of the Port is required to move the vessel. Moving a burning vessel to an anchorage often reduces exposure problems but could increase access and pollution problems. Even if a sufficient number of vessels or platforms can be obtained to gain access to the vessel, fighting a fire from a platform while exposed to the weather and the currents is much more difficult than fighting a fire from a pier.

Figure 10 – Defensive foam attack
General Tactics.

There are many different types of fires that can occur aboard vessels. As with any fire incident, initial fire department actions should address rescue of endangered persons, protection of exposures, confinement, and prevention of firespread. Other tactics and strategies, and their order of precedence, vary depending on the type of fire situation and location on the vessel. As is the case in some structure fires, incorrectly ventilating a vessel space can cause a backdraft explosion. Any use of ventilation as mentioned in and throughout this document should be carefully considered before its application as a strategy. Usually it is essential that ventilation not be established until a coordinated attack can be made.

Watertight Doors.

Watertight doors can be found throughout a large ship. The operation of the doors should be noted during the pre-fire planning process, as they are vital to the containment of fire, smoke, and water. Due to their very purpose, watertight doors are subject to pressure from water or hot gases. Watertight doors should be opened with extreme caution.

Non-quick-Acting Watertight Doors.

Non-quick acting watertight doors are manual and are held in place by slip hinges and, usually, six locking dogs. Because the door could have pressure behind it, it is advisable to open the dogs on the hinged side of the door first. The slip hinges allow the pressure to be released without the door being uncontrollably blown open. The unhinged side can be unlocked when it is safe to do so.

Figure 11 – Watertight door

Quick-Acting Watertight Doors.

Quick-acting watertight doors are manual and are locked with the rotation of a single lever or wheel. The lever or wheel passes through two stages as it is rotated. The first stage partially opens the door to release pressure while keeping the door secured to the doorjambs. It cannot blow open in this stage. After the pressure has dissipated, the lever or wheel should be rotated further to open the door.

Figure 12 – Quick acting watertight door

Power-Driven Watertight Doors.

Power-driven watertight doors are doors that are operated by means of electric motors. Each door usually can be operated by an electric switch or a hand crank. Operating stations may be both local and remote from the door. Remote electric control stations might be provided with an automatic closing mode that automatically re-closes the door on release of the local switch.

4-7 Fireboat Operations
Figure 13 – Seattle Fire boats

Fireboat Specifications

Engine 4 - Chief Seattle Engine 3 - Alki
Built/Rebuilt 1984 1927/1947
Length 96.5 Feet 123.5 Feet
Breadth 23.0 Feet 26.0 Feet
Draft 7.0 Feet 9.5 Feet
Propulsion 3036 HP/Triple Screw 1000 HP/Twin Screw
Speed 26 Knots 12 Knots

Monitors 3 - Deck Mounted 8 - Deck Mounted
1 - Telescoping (13’)
2 - Under Dock 2- Under Dock
Capacity 7500 GPM 16,200 GPM

Fireboat Tactical Operations - Vessels in Port

The following are the recommended Primary and Secondary Tactics to a vessel fire response involving a vessel moored in port:

Initial actions contingent of the type of incident and directions/assignments from the Incident commander, with emphasis on the following:
Ship fire with Hazardous Materials
Ship Fire
Vessel Stability

Initial Actions:

1. Respond as part of the Initial Response to the vessels location

2. Initiate a report (size-up) to the Incident Commander, describing the conditions observed from the waterside:
A: Fire Conditions
1. A report of fire and smoke conditions (if any) visible, their location, color of smoke, open portholes etc.,
B: Hazardous Conditions
1. General condition of the vessel as observed from the fireboats location.
a: Hazardous Materials observed
b: Fuel spills in the water
c: Vessel stability

C: Life Hazard Conditions
1. Ships crew visible on deck or in the water

Primary Tactics:

1. Launch small boat and make ready for potential water rescue of firefighters or ships crew in the water, or for emergency “Booming” of vessel in the event of fuel spill, spillage of contaminated firefighting water or possible chemicals threatening to the environment

2. Initiate a waterside search and/or rescue operation (as is feasible)

A: Attempt to physically check every compartment and stateroom as is possible: This shall be accomplished by visually checking each porthole from the deck of the fireboat, from the vicinity of the fire fore & aft. In the process, portholes shall be closed (except as necessary for ventilation purposes) to help prevent fire spread and to promote extinguishment in the event of the use of CO2.

B: Lay a Supply Line to the ships weather deck in preparation for it’s use in firefighting or to supply the ships firemain. Engage fire pumps and make ready for their use.

Secondary Tactics:

1. Establish communications link using fireboats marine VHF radio, between Incident Commander, Coast Guard, and other vessels involved in the operation.

2. Assist in the establishment of a “Safe Zone” on the waterside of the involved

3. Continue updates of observed conditions from the waterside vantage point

4. Begin to monitor the condition of the involved vessel, and document the following:

A: Vessel’s Draft (fore & aft)
B: Current water depth
C: Current Tidal conditions (incoming/outgoing)
D: Current Weather conditions and Forecast
E: Current location of fire and/or spread

5. Participate in other firefighting functions as directed by the Incident Commander

Fireboat Tactical Operations - Vessels at Anchor

Following are the recommended Primary and Secondary Tactics to a shipfire response involving a vessel at anchor:

Initial actions contingent of the type of incident and directions/assignments from the Incident commander, with emphasis on the following:
Ship fire with Hazardous Materials
Ship Fire
Vessel Stability

Initial Actions:
1. Delay response until arrival of shoreside firefighters and/or any additional
firefighting units as dispatched.

2. Respond with additional units & equipment to the fire Vessels Location, making observations of fire conditions as necessary in order to give adequate size-up.
A: Approach vessel from upwind.
B: Approach vessel in such a way (if possible) so as to observe more than one side (or vantage point) of the involved vessel.

3. Initiate a report (size-up)to the Incident Commander, describing the conditions observed from the water side:
A: Fire Conditions
a report of fire and smoke conditions (if any) visible, their location, color of smoke, open port holes etc., etc.
B: Hazardous Conditions
1. General condition of the vessel as observed from your vantage point
a: Hazardous Materials observed
b: Fuel spills in the water
c: Vessel Stability
C: Life Hazard Conditions
1. Ships crew visible on deck, in the water

Primary Tactics:

1. Upon arrival at the involved fire vessel, come alongside in order to put firefighting crews onboard.
A: Use Gangway (if accessible)
B: Use Fireboat ladders

2. Once a crew is aboard the involved vessel,
A: Lay a Supply Line to the ships weather deck in preparation for its use in firefighting or to supply the ships firemain. Engage fire pumps
and make ready for their use.

3. Launch the small boat and make ready for:
A: Potential water rescue of firefighters or ships crew in the water, or for emergency “Booming” of vessel in the event of fuel spill, spillage
of contaminated firefighting water or possible chemicals threatening
to the environment.
B: Doing an initial “once around” of the fire vessel to survey for fire
conditions, fire victims and to initiate a waterside search and/or
rescue operation (as is feasible).
1. Attempt to physically check every compartment and stateroom as is possible from the vicinity of the fire fore & aft. In the process, portholes (if accessible) shall be closed (except as necessary for ventilation purposes) to help prevent fire spread and to promote extinguishment in the event of the use of CO2.
C: Advise Incident Commander of conditions observed

Secondary Tactics:

1. Establish communications link using fireboats marine VHF radio, between Incident Commander, Coast Guard, and other vessels involved in the operation

2. Designation of the fireboat as the “Marine Staging Manager”, responsible to initiate actions necessary in the MANAGEMENT of the various “assist” vessels on scene. Functions may include:

A: Position vessels in strategic areas around the involved vessel in order to utilize their presence in monitoring areas not immediately accessible nor visible to the fireboat.

B: Initiate contacts between USCG, Capt. of the Port, and any other agencies with potential involvement, in order to maintain a communications link necessary should specialized equipment (Tugs, Barges, Salvage Vessels, CO2 and/or other marine equipment) become necessary to the successful mitigation of the incident.

C: Coordinate response of second fireboat upon confirmation of a working fire.

3. Establish a second water supply

4. Assist in the establishment of a “Safe Zone” around the involved vessel

5. Continue updates of observed conditions from the waterside vantage point

6. Begin to monitor the condition of the involved vessel, and document the following:
A: Vessel’s Draft (fore & aft)
B: Current water depth
C: Current Tidal conditions (incoming/outgoing)
D: Current Weather conditions and Forecast
E: Current location of fire and/or spread

7. Maintain the small boat ready for potential water rescues or other functions as may be necessary

8. Participate in other firefighting functions as directed by the Incident Commander, such as CAMEO

4-8 Post-Incident Activities

Vessel Disposition.

Fire Extinguished.

Once the fire is extinguished, the chief fire officer or the technician level firefighter involved in a marine incident might be asked to certify that the danger has passed. A complete overhaul of a vessel can take many hours or even days. Incident commanders are cautioned to avoid a hasty decision when certifying that a fire has been extinguished.

Safe Entry.

Frequently, after the fire is extinguished, fire officers involved in marine fires are asked if the fire area is safe for entry by non fire fighters, civilians, or crew. The marine industry has had numerous fatalities resulting from entry into toxic or oxygen-deficient atmospheres after a fire. As a result, the industry has developed certifications for marine chemists, who are recognized and accepted by courts as competent to test and certify that spaces are safe for human entry. Fire officers are strongly advised to leave safe entry decisions to marine chemists.

Vessel/Scene Control.

If the master or crew, or both, remain on the vessel, they remain in control of the vessel. The chief fire officer involved in a marine fire or incident might believe that a vessel presents a continued hazard but has no authority to act. These reservations should be voiced to the master in front of documented witnesses, and, if mitigating action is not taken, such reservations should be referred to the COTP for appropriate action.

Fire Watch.

It is a common practice in marine fire fighting to post fire watches on vessels that have experienced fires. This usually is done during and after the overhaul. Normally, fire watches are positioned on the fire deck as well as on the decks above and below. Fire watches are rotated in shifts and can be maintained for 48 hours or longer. Additionally, the ship’s hoselines are laid out (and charged), ready for use in case the overhaul effort proves to be insufficient.
4-9 Legal Issues

Admiralty Law.

Court Authority.

Questions of admiralty law are not within the province of local courts. State courts can adjudicate admiralty matters if the Congress has not and if the body of water or shoreline falls entirely within that state. Under Article I, Section 8, and Article III, Section 2, of the Constitution, Congress is given the power to legislate admiralty and maritime matters and the federal courts are given the judicial power. The U.S. Congress has vested admiralty jurisdiction exclusively in the federal district courts (Amer. Juris. 2d., 1962).


Even a small fire aboard a vessel can result in a high monetary loss and sometimes a loss of life. As a result, court actions are brought in admiralty court to address the interests of those who have suffered a loss. In many cases, fire departments, both volunteer and career, as well as mutual aid departments have been named as the defendants in these cases. An understanding of the dangers inherent in marine fire fighting should include an understanding of the consequences of the failure to provide a standard of training, planning, response, and action equivalent to that which a department provides on the land-based portions of its response area.


The following are examples of legislation that are applicable to marine incidents:
York-Antwerp Rules (1864). Provides for uniform international procedures in adjusting liability;
Harter Act (1893). Concerned with U.S. domestic water common carrier liability;
Hague Rules (1924). Concerned with international water common carrier liability;
Carriage of Goods by Sea Act (COGSA) (1936). U.S. law that was written as a result of the Hague Rules and concerned with the international water common carrier liability in U.S. courts;
Oil Pollution Act (1990). Revision of the 1961 act that prohibits the discharge of oil or its by-products in the navigable waters of the U.S. or within 50 mi. (85 km) of the coastline. This Act also requires shipping companies to designate agencies to respond to marine incidents.
Ports and Waterways Safety Act, 33 CFR 10; 33 USC 1221. (See Section 12-10.)


The admiralty court jurisdiction can be determined by two important considerations: the wrong is to have occurred on navigable waters and the wrong is to have occurred on a vessel in those navigable waters. A “vessel” is any structure that has the characteristic of mobility rather than being fixed (Amer. Juris., 1962).

Force Majeure.

Force majeure is a concept of International Customary Law that provides that a vessel in distress may be permitted to enter a port and can claim “as a right an entire immunity” from local jurisdiction (Jessup, 1927). It should be noted that admiralty courts have upheld this concept as long as the distress was real and valid. Some foreign admiralty laws hold that force majeure makes exceptions of all rules.


Most cases reaching court accuse some form of neglect. In other forms of law, the doctrine of contributory negligence is used. However, in admiralty court, “the doctrine of comparative negligence prevails.” The Rule of Divided Damages is a specialty in admiralty law (Amer. Juris., 1962). Normally, “gross negligence” or “willful misconduct” results in an award of damages (Gilmore, 1975).


In admiralty law, salvage is the award of compensation to a salvor for services rendered to a vessel in distress. These services normally substantially improve the distressed vessel’s condition. Where considering an award of salvage, admiralty courts look at the status of the salvor (amateur or professional) and whether the aid was requested or self-initiated (Mankabady, 1978).

Under admiralty law, anyone who renders assistance to a vessel in distress on navigable waters may be permitted to be called a salvor. A salvor is not always entitled to an award of salvage (Sohn, 1984). Firefighters are not considered salvors
Duty to Act.

A true salvor’s acts are voluntary; therefore, a person or persons under a duty to render assistance may not be permitted to be awarded claim for salvage in admiralty court (Gilmore, 1975).

Salvage and Fire Fighters.

“Municipal or other public employees, such as firemen, are not entitled to an award for saving property if they were merely performing their regular duties.” (Fireman’s Charitable Assn. vs. Ross, 60F. 456; 5th . Cir. 1893)

Memoranda of Understanding (MOU).

MOU should be used between agencies whose responsibilities are not otherwise defined in regulation or law. Mutual aid agreements can fall into this category. These documents should define the expected actions of the agencies involved and stipulate the desired level of response to marine fires.

Lloyd’s Open Form (LOF).

This is a standard form document used in the shipping industry to cover salvage agreements between vessels and salvors. It is approved and published by The Committee of Lloyd’s. A primary consideration of LOF is the concept of “No cure — no pay.” This salvage agreement stipulates arbitration, appeals, maritime liens, cargo disposition, interest rates, liability, and remuneration (LOF, 1980).

Fire Cause Investigation.

Fire officers concerned with a cause and origin investigation on a vessel (especially foreign flag vessels) should be prepared to place their personnel or federal officers on fire watch if they intend to maintain scene control to preserve a chain of custody. If the master or crew rejects an investigation, nonfederal fire officers should consult federal authorities (USCG COTP) for direction. Local fire officers should not assume they have the same control of a post-fire scene that they have on land. The U.S. Marshal, insurance carrier, or flag country might wish to assume control of any or all investigations.


Marine insurance was established about 800 years ago, long before fire or life insurance. Modern underwriting insurance had its origins centered around the coffeehouse of Edward Lloyd in London in the middle 1700s. It wasn’t until the 18th century that marine insurance was written in America. Generally, insurance allows the price of commodities and services to be less expensive because it allows the ship owner or shipper to spread the burden of losses to a larger group of people, the underwriters.

4-10 Vessel Fire Checklist

The following information should be included in a vessel fire checklist. It is not intended to be all-inclusive. Fire department personnel are encouraged to develop a checklist in a usable format that meets the needs of the department.
Incident Notification.
Type of vessel incident
Time of day
Weather/wind/tide conditions
Any other alarm information
Resources included in initial response
Start of incident size-up process

En-Route to Incident.
Additional incident indicators (e.g., smoke showing, explosions)
Communications/radio informational updates
Coast Guard and law enforcement response/information
Consultation of pre-fire survey plans (e.g., terminal,
vessel) and any applicable disaster plans (Coast Guard,
multi-agency, available resources, mass casualty)

On the Scene.
Initial report on conditions (to be periodically updated during incident)
Incident location and scene conditions
Vessel type and name
Type and extent of emergency
Rescue situation
Assumption of command and establishment of incident command system
Identification of initial command post location
Request of additional assistance
Additional alarms
Activation of pre-established response modes
Specialized resources and equipment (e.g., fireboats, hazmat team, air units)
Other organizations, agencies, and individuals
Establishment of staging/base area, identification of location, assignment of
staging responsibility
Performance of immediate/obvious rescue of endangered persons
Isolation of area
Determination of operational area and establishment of incident perimeter
(be liberal)
Shoreside: Law Enforcement (traffic and crowd control, initial evacuation, perimeter security
Waterside: Coast Guard/harbor police (vessel traffic control, waterside rescue, waterside condition reports)
Coast Guard and law enforcement officials to command post
Performance of initial actions to prevent incident from enlarging
Protection/cooling of exposures
Movement of endangered vessels, cargo, vehicles, etc.
Securement/isolation of cargo operations to vessel (e.g., liquid cargo/fuel transfer hoses)
Investigation of situation and gathering of additional information
Type of incident (e.g., fire, explosion, hazardous material release, collision)

Vessel Construction.
Procurement of ship’s fire plan and other applicable plans
Location of and accounting for ship’s crew
Consultation with master, mates, engineering officers
Size, dimensions, decks, interior arrangement
Age, condition, faults, weaknesses
Compartmentation, fire/watertight separations/zones
Vertical and horizontal openings and channels
Exterior access and points of entry
Access from dock (gangway, ramps, aerial ladders, cargo-loading equipment)
Condition of fuel, liquid cargo, and ballast tanks
Flooding and stability problems

Collection of Cargo Information.
Procurement of dangerous cargo manifest, general cargo manifest, stowage plan (on or near bridge or terminal office, or both)
Determination of susceptibility of cargo to heat and water
Determination of need for cargo salvage operations (off-load or relocate vessel)
Determination of any hazardous materials onboard or involved (name, ID
number, quantity, location, hazards)

Determination of Fire Situation.
Location (red hot metal, peeling paint, smoke, temperature readings, heat scanners)
Interview of crew (determination of what happened, where, when, why, what has
been done prior to fire department arrival, and the results)
Type and size of area involved and extent of involvement (decks, holds, spaces,
zones, frames)
Danger of extension of, or direction of, firespread, or both
Fire load, type and amount of materials involved
Effect fire has had and projection of its continued effect
Life hazard
Crew (number, nationality, language barriers, location, condition)
Shoreside workers and spectators (number, location, condition)
Flooding or stability problems, or both
Exposures (Shoreside and Waterside).
Exposure type (vessels, facilities, cargo, vehicles)
Exposure access, arrangement, distance, combustibility
Pier, wharf, dock construction, configuration, condition, and combustibility
Determination of obstructions to operations, limitations on apparatus movement
and use
Gathering of more detailed information on weather, tide, current, wind
(direction, speed), temperature, precipitation, inversion, and fog and their
anticipated changes and effects on incident
Water Supply.
Hydrants (location, main size, capacity flow)
Supplemental water sources (water tanks, portable pumps, drafting sites,
fireboats and apparatus)
Vessel firemain system (condition, control valves)
International shore connections
Fire pump(s)
Fire stations (locations, hose, type of couplings, associated equipment)
Consideration given to laying lines from shore to vessel, using aerial apparatus
as standpipes

Determining Status and Condition of, and Gaining
Control of, Other Vessel Systems.
Consultation with engineering officers
Dewatering systems, ballast, cargo, and bilge pumps
Generators (main, auxiliary, emergency)
Ventilation systems, dampers, controls
Communications systems (radios, telephones, voice tubes, public address)
Fire protection systems, type (carbon dioxide, halon,
foam, sprinklers), areas covered, control valve locations,
method of operation
Inert gas systems
Smoke and fire detection systems
Vessel propulsion systems (operational and capable of moving vessel)
Remotely controlled watertight doors and fire doors
Cargo-handling gear

Identification of Incident Strategies, Objectives, Tactics, and Tasks.
Development of plan(s) to achieve strategies, objectives, tactics, and tasks
Mobilization of resources to accomplish strategies, objectives, tactics, and tasks
(on scene, responding, available in reserve, response time to incident)
Coast Guard resources
Captain of the port or representative
Pacific/Atlantic area strike teams
Helicopter overflights
Local Coast Guard group (vessels for waterside operations and floating command post)
Vessel traffic service
Marine investigators and inspectors
Fireboats (municipal, military, private)
SCBA filling equipment and cylinders
Other law enforcement agencies (e.g., Coast Guard,
customs, immigration, military, fish and game, highway patrol)
Emergency medical services (hospitals, ambulances, medical, field triage teams,
and equipment)
Telephone and utility companies
Port authority
Coroner/medical examiner
Military organizations
Navy Superintendent of Salvage
Oil spill response teams
Damage control and fire-fighting teams
Dewatering equipment, foam concentrates, and other supplies
Helicopters and surface craft
Demolition and ordinance experts
Army Corps of Engineers
Hazardous material cleanup cooperatives, contractors, vacuum trucks, and other
containment equipment
Fire-fighting foam concentrate (bulk suppliers, refinery and airport foam
apparatus, and other specialized foam equipment)
Bulk carbon dioxide
Stevedores and specialized cargo-handling equipment
Cranes, tractors, forklifts
Lighting equipment and generators
Communications equipment (portable radios, communications vehicles/trailers,
field phones, messengers)
Dewatering equipment (pumps, eductors, booms)
Rehabilitation area (food, sleeping facilities, wash and sanitary facilities)
Marine salvage companies
Ship service companies
Shipyard and dry-dock companies
Marine chemists
Marine surveyors
Vessel owner, agent
Terminal operator
News media, photographers
Public works
Establishment of interagency communications (loaner radios, communications
Establishment of other incident command system functions
Division of incident into manageable units, assignment of responsibility for those
units, and identification of unit objectives (divisions, groups, branches)
Identification of and establishment of primary and secondary fire boundaries on
all six sides of fire
Hoselines, cooling decks, and bulkheads
Movement of combustibles away from fire boundaries
Establishment of secure ventilation and openings to fire area
Establishment of secure utilities and fuel to fire area
Investigation for concealed spaces and avenues of firespread through boundaries
Frequent inspections of all sides of fire
Installation of floating booms around incident to contain debris and oil pollution
Monitoring of vessel stability throughout incident
Notation of changes in indicators such as draft marks, inclinometers
Awareness of large accumulations of water above ship’s waterline
Establishment of secure openings in the hull to prevent water entering the vessel if a list
Procurement of technical assistance to determine stability situation and
recommendation of corrective actions
Start of adequate dewatering operations

Fire Confinement and Control.
Mobilization and positioning of sufficient personnel and
hoselines/appliances/extinguishing agents to control and extinguish fire
Coordination of ventilation of fire area with fire attack
Provision of sufficient rotation of personnel to maintain a continuous
extinguishing effort
Awareness of pressure buildup in secured spaces and maintenance of escape
Start of necessary salvage operations
Where necessary, establishment of fire watch and start of overhaul/fire cause
Investigation operations
Continual reevaluation of incident operations and plans, with changes made as
Documentation and recording of events as they occur with corresponding times

4-11 Training

Figure 13 – Training exercise


Once the pre-fire plan has been completed, Shoreside responders should establish drills and training sessions onboard the vessel. The pre-fire plan indicates the location and identity of important aspects of the vessel that shoreside fire fighters need to know in an emergency situation.
Tours and drills are to be scheduled through the appropriate authorities to minimize interference with the vessel and terminal operations. The appropriate size for a touring group should be determined prior to boarding the vessel. Generally, it is difficult to tour a vessel effectively with large groups. For this reason, several tours might need to be scheduled in order to familiarize as many personnel as possible.

Training Exercises.

The function of a training exercise is to ensure that the plans and procedures can be implemented.
Because most land-based fire fighters fight shipboard fires infrequently, the value of a marine fire-fighting exercise is immeasurable. The exercises that have been conducted by fire departments throughout the United States have proved to be of significant benefit when response to a shipboard fire is necessary.
Arrangements should be made with the terminal management and the ship’s owner/operator for the purpose of conducting a full dress rehearsal of an incident. This includes search and rescue, deployment of water curtains, master streams, and attack lines, and deployment of fire department ladders for boarding a ship at locations other than the gangway.
Before an operation of this size can be conducted, extensive planning is necessary. The COTP and ship’s master should be involved with all fire company officers that are to be a party to the operations. Mutual aid personnel should be included. On-site visits and discussions to familiarize the participants with the intended operation should be conducted.
Coordination for drills/exercises is essential. Agencies involved in the drills might be unable to suspend work during the exercise.
The ship and terminal personnel cannot stop work during on-site visits. There are days or nights when work is not in progress. This is particularly true at liquid bulk transfer facilities. Often, especially on a Sunday or while waiting for a favorable tide, a ship is berthed and is not transferring product. This is the time to conduct a drill.
Often a local towboat and tank barge company provide the towboat and barge with their crews for a full-scale drill. Close cooperation among the COTP, towboat company, and marine terminal is important.
If the drill evolutions are properly planned and conducted, the fire chief will have the support and cooperation of the port community.
It cannot be overemphasized that every effort should be made to include the COTP in all planning and field evolutions. The COTP has broad powers and is held in high esteem in the port community. Cooperation can almost be guaranteed if the COTP supports the training exercise.
In order to conduct an exercise, a plan of operation is needed. A plan is legitimate only when it has been realistically exercised.


Any plan should be written and reviewed with the input of the participating agencies. Only with this cooperative effort can a training exercise using this plan be truly beneficial. The coordination for a full-scale shipboard fire-fighting drill can take weeks or months after a draft of the plan is written.


A plan is to be tested by real or simulated situations that assist the planner in determining the functional validity of the plan. Shipboard fire-fighting training exercises should consist of multiple, small, previously validated elements that are then coordinated to form a large-scale drill.


The plan should be reviewed at least annually or as changes occur. Training exercises should be conducted on a routine basis and especially after major alterations in the plan.
Qualitative Analysis.

The quality of the plan is a function of its ability to accomplish the mission for which it was designed and the perception of all users with respect to its “user friendliness.” A plan that is difficult to understand and to implement will not be used and, therefore, has no value. If the training exercise does not accomplish the tasks for which it was designed, the plan should be reevaluated.


After every exercise of the plan or a drill that incorporates the plan, formal and informal critiques should be held. It is neither sufficient nor beneficial to test or critique the plan in small sections and assume that a large-scale exercise works if all components have not been tested simultaneously. The plan should be exercised in its entirety, and the critique should include all facets of the exercise and plan.


After each exercise, drill, or test of the plan, the lessons learned should be incorporated into the revised plan.


After each actual emergency, a debriefing should occur at which accurate notes are taken. The lessons learned then should be incorporated into the plan. Debriefings should include discussions of the following areas:
Tactical. Actual strategic, tactical, and task accomplishments should be compared to the goals set forth in the plan, and inconsistencies between the plan and tactical objectives should be the primary focus of tactical debriefings. All participants, from the chief to the driver, should be debriefed.
Critical Incident Stress (CIS). The focus of critical incident stress (CIS) debriefings is the mitigation of the effects of an incident and their by-products. It is useful to revise the plan in an attempt to reduce stress on the fire/rescue personnel, if possible.

Video Review.

It is extremely useful to have these records for review and analysis.

Audio Review.

It is extremely useful to have these records for review and analysis.

Log Review.

It is essential to have these records to document changes in the plan.

Advanced Fire Fighting — Marine Training.

Training of land-based fire fighters in the unique aspects of combating vessel fires should include:
Vessel types;
Vessel construction pertaining to fire fighting;
Stability and dewatering;
Suppression and ventilation;
Available resources for assistance.

Unit 99 members must attend a Shoreside Marine Firefighting class prior to certification as a Technician.
The types of simulations that can be exercised for marine fire fighters are as follows:
1. Engine room -Fuel line break and fire Electrical fire
Victim extrication, lower level
2. Pump room -Broken pump seals and fire
Electric pump motor fire
Victim extrication, lower level
3. Dry cargo areas - Tank top fire or rupture, or both
Bottom hold cargo fire, access to tween deck cargo fire and access
to upper deck or shelter deck fire
Weather or main deck fire - Person in the hold extrication
4. Tank ship - tank fire
Weather deck fire
Product pipe system on deck - Rupture or fire, or both
Product hose rupture
Connection and valve rupture or fire, or both
Person in the tank extrication
5. Accommodation spaces / berthing quarters fire
Galley fire
Laundry room fire
Mess room fire
Electrical fire
Ventilation system fire
Multiple victim extrication from various spaces

4-12 Incident Command.


The Vancouver Fire Department shall utilize the Incident Command System portion of the National Interagency Incident Management System at all emergencies, training exercises and in other appropriate situations as a tool to fulfill the department’s mission. This operating instruction shall primarily cover the ICS component of the NIIMS.

The Vancouver Fire Department shall utilize the ICS to meet the following strategic objectives:
1.0.1 Life Safety: Our primary strategic objective is to protect lives, both Fire Fighter and customer. Our primary consideration shall be the safety of Fire Department members. To that end we will take steps to manage the inherent risks involved in serving our customers to save “savable” lives.

1.0.2 Incident Stabilization: Our second strategic objective is to minimize the progression of the incident following the Fire Department’s intervention.

1.0.3 Resource/Property Conservation: Our final strategic objective is to minimize the damage to or loss of natural resources or property.

The assignment of duties and responsibilities to individuals in the IMS shall include the delegation of the authority necessary to accomplish assignment.

Jones, R. Marine Firefighter Handbook, First Edition, 1992

National Fire Protection Association, NFPA 1405, 1996 Edition, NFPA 1996

United States Navy, Naval Ship’s Technical Manual, Chapter 555, Shipboard Firefighting, Department of the Navy, 1993

United States Coast Guard, A Manual For The Safe Handling of Flammable and Combustible Liquids and Other Hazardous Products, Department of Transportation, 1976

National Fire Protection Association, Fire Protection Handbook, NFPA 16th Edition, 1986

Maritime Training Advisory Board, Marine Fire Prevention, Firefighting and Fire Safety, United States Department of Commerce, Maritime Administration,

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