Coal Fires

Most coal fires occur at about the tween deck level which is an area that requires more attention to temperature monitoring and to ventilation.


Surface ventilation to holds should be concerned with the removal of gas for the first 5 days of the voyage, thereafter the ventilators to the lower holds should be plugged with an exception for about 6 h every 2 days. Gas from the holds or tween deck regions may find its way into trunk sections, shaft tunnels, chain lockers, peaks and casings unless bulkheads can be maintained in a gas-tight condition.


Note: A strict policy of no naked lights and no smoking should be followed and crew should not be engaged in chipping or painting below decks.


The majority of coal fires are caused by spontaneous combustion. Poor hatch cleaning prior to loading and a lack of temperature monitoring are often directly linked to the cause. In the event of a coal fire at sea, it should be realized that these are extremely hot fires and if tackled with water would generate copious amounts of steam. Unless this can be vented, the compartments could become pressurized.


If tackled from sea, it is recommended that hatches are battened down and all ventilation to the compartment sealed with the view to starving the fire of oxygen. A Port of Refuge should be sort, where the authorities can be informed to receive the vessel and dig the fire out by grabs while fire-fighters are stood by to tackle the blaze once exposed.



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