Cruise Ship Fires, Maritime Matter of the Week

Coast Guard Issues Safety Alert Regarding Fire Suppression System Pressure Switches


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Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. is comprised of attorneys that are nationally-recognized industry leaders in the field of maritime and admiralty law. Our team of lawyers has over a century of combined experience, has successfully handled over 3,000 cases, and has recovered over 300 million dollars in damages for our clients.

In the event that an accident take place on land or at sea while in the care of a vessel, victims can seek the help of a maritime attorney to protect their rights and see about obtaining compensation for their pain and suffering. However, incidents like these can often be avoided by ensuring that all safety measures and precautions are maintained. Maritime safety is a top priority for boaters, cargo ship workers and even cruise ship passengers. When safety onboard a vessel is compromised, accidents can take place that lead to serious, if not fatal, injuries. Recently, the U.S. Coast Guard Inspections and Compliance Directorate issued a safety alert on the location of fixed fire suppression system pressure switches, addressing the location of the switches aboard vessels.

The switches are critical components that maintain safety onboard vessels because they sense system pressure and secure ventilation systems in the protected space. They are essential in extinguishing fires onboard a vessel and also assist in isolating a fire within a space. In addition, the switches also minimize the addition of extra oxygen that might fuel the fire and make it spread throughout the ship.

The Coast Guard’s concerns follow a recent accident onboard a vessel, which suffered extensive damage due to a fire in the engine room. The vessel had a fixed CO2 fire suppression system and when the fire erupted, the crew’s efforts to ventilate the engine room were unsuccessful. After the maritime accident, a damage survey revealed that the pressure switch used to secure the ventilation was located inside the engine room. There was no way to reach it without crewmembers getting burned by the fire.

Fixed CO2 systems need to be approved and installed in accordance with safety regulations, which specify that all controls and valves for the operation of the system be located outside the space that is to be protected. They need to be accessible at all times, especially in the event of a fire. Had the CO2 system onboard the damaged vessel been located in a more appropriate location, the damage to the vessel would have been exponentially minimized.

The Coast Guard hopes to remind vessel owners and operators whose boats and ships have fixed fire suppression systems to make sure that the switches are in a proper and accessible location onboard. If the pressure switches are currently within the space being protected, the Coast Guard explains they should be relocated to an appropriate area by a trained fire suppression service technician. By making these important maritime safety changes, crewmembers will be better able to respond and deal with an emergency if one were to occur. If not, the consequences could be much more disastrous than the previous CO2 fire accident.

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