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ďŹ re safety in the engine room

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CONTENTS engine room fires Hot surfaces in engine rooms Jacketed high-pressure fuel pipes screening of high/low pressure pipes

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Human factor dnv’s role The Additional Fire Protection (F-AMC) Class notation Checklist for engine-room fire prevention

each year, fires lead to casualties and severe damage to vessels and equipment. dnv statistics, insurance companies and other sources report that the majority of these fires originate in the engine room and the top detainable deficiency during port state controls is reported to be related to fire safety measures. The purpose of this paper is therefore to provide ship managers and operators with guidance on how to minimise the incidence of engine-room fires caused by leaking flammable oils. This document is meant to be a supplement to MsC.1/Circ.1321 guidelines for measures to prevent fires in engine-rooms and cargo pump-rooms and shall be used as guidance only. We will mainly address hot surfaces and the insulation of such, jacketed high-pressure fuel pipes and the shielding of high/low pressure pipes in the engine room.

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Engine room fires Fires on board vessels are expensive – both with regard to costs and the potential loss of life. Bearing in mind that most fire drills are carried out on deck and the majority of fires originate in the engine room, fires may have severe consequences. Flammable oil leaks coming into contact with hot surfaces are by far the most common reason for engineroom fires. Other main contributors to the fire and explosion risk are excessive blow-by causing scavengingspace fires or crankcase explosions. Electrical failures and leakages of hot gas due to bad pipe fixations or connections are also known causes of fires. Additionally, maintenance and proper cleanliness in the engine room are important in reducing the risk of fire. The intention of the SOLAS regulations is to prevent fire by using two equally applicable and weighted measures: n the insulation of hot surfaces and n the screening/shielding of low-pressure pipelines and the containment of leaks and issuance of a warning in high-pressure pipelines containing flammable oils It is important to note that both these measures are required. Hence, even if the hot surfaces in the engine room are sufficiently insulated, the screening/shielding is still required. There may be two reasons for this duplication of safety measures. Firstly, no common industrial standard exists for this insulation. Secondly, the insulation has a tendency to deteriorate to the extent that surfaces with temperatures above 220°C may become exposed.

The SOLAS requirements concerning hot surfaces in the engine room and the insulation of such, jacketed high-pressure fuel pipes and the shielding of high/low pressure pipes in the engine room were made retroactive in 2003 for fuel oil (not lubricating oil, hydraulic oil or other flammable oils).

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Hot surfaces in engine rooms Oil leakage coming into contact with hot spots on engines is the most important cause of engine-room fires on board ships. According to DNV casualty statistics, more than 60% of all engine-room fires are caused by oil leaking onto a hot surface. Most fuel oils, lubrication oils and other flammable oils have an auto-ignition point above 220°C. If an oil spray from a leak hits a surface hotter than its auto-ignition temperature, the liquid may ignite spontaneously. Any such hot spot consequently represents an immediate hazard in the event of an oil leakage.

All hot surfaces in the engine room must be insulated to ensure that no exposed surface has a temperature above 220°C. The insulation material must be fit for purpose, i.e. made of non-combustible material with a non-oil-absorbing surface that can withstand the relevant temperature and it must be free of asbestos. These requirements apply to all SOLAS vessels, irrespective of the year when they were built. For non-SOLAS vessels, the Rules for Classification of Ships at the time of the contract date are applicable.

In general, there should not be any ignition sources in the engine room. It is therefore the auto-ignition temperature of the oil that must be taken into account when assessing an engine room for hot spots. The auto-ignition temperature of oils, whether fuel, lubrication or hydraulic, is most often in the area from 250°C and upwards, and the requirement in SOLAS and DNV Rules has been set at 220°C on this basis. Operational factors contributing to hot surfaces/spots, e.g. welding/cutting, require further evaluation on board.

Origin of Hot Spots Equivalent requirements have been incorporated in the Rules for Classification of Ships since the mid-1970s but have been paid much greater attention by Port State Authorities since being included in SOLAS, and this is one of the recurring deficiencies causing detentions.

Flashpoint vs. auto-ignition The flashpoint and auto-ignition temperatures are defined properties of fluids, in the same way as the freezing point and boiling point. It is important to be aware that these two properties will vary depending on the type of oil and the value should be duly noted when new oil is bunkered. Flashpoint: above this temperature, a secondary ignition source (spark, open flame, etc) may ignite the vapour. In general, no fuel oil with a flashpoint below 60°C is to be used on board vessels. Auto-ignition: above this temperature, vapour may ignite spontaneously without any secondary source.

In areas where the insulation is insufficient or damaged, so-called hot spots will occur. These are easily overlooked but, considering the fire risk they represent, they must be dealt with promptly and with top priority to minimise the risk of fires in the event of flammable oil leaks. Besides, they will always be high on both the surveyors’ and port states’ agendas. In most cases, they are quite easy to rectify. Hot spots may have the following origin: ■■ No insulation: parts may not be insulated at all although the surface temperatures may exceed the auto-ignition point of 220°C. ■■ Removed/deteriorated insulation: during repairs and maintenance, the insulation is often not put back properly and/or frequent installation and removal may cause deterioration. ■■ Poor insulation: in many cases, the surface temperature of the insulation is above 220°C. This is because the insulation has not been correctly specified or is too thin in areas where there is not enough space to install it. ■■ Wrong/failed insulation: the insulation system fails after

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a short operating time. This is due to dynamic forces caused by engine vibrations and/or the use of unsuitable material that cannot withstand thermal and dynamic stress.

Known hot spots


Common problem areas are, but are not limited to: ■■ Indicator valves ■■ Cut-outs for pressure/temperature sensors ■■ Turbochargers, in particular flanges ■■ Exhaust pipes from each cylinder ■■ Exhaust piping after turbochargers ■■ Cylinder covers ■■ Transitions into exhaust manifolds ■■ Exhaust manifolds, in particular overlaps between steel sheets and laggings ■■ Foundations and lifting lugs on exhaust ducts and manifolds ■■ Boilers, and especially: – Manhole, inspection hatchets – Steam valves, etc – Cut-outs for pressure/temperature sensors, etc. – Exhaust outlets – Burner units – Steam piping – Insulation of the boiler in general (focus on the combustion area)


During maintenance work, it is quite common for insulation material to deteriorate and the crew may overlook this when re-installing the insulation. Hence, it is important that the crew pays extra attention to the proper insulation of machinery and related systems during operation.

Top: Typical mistake when re-fitting insulation. Bottom: Example of good insulation.

Second layer: non-oilabsorbent layer to prevent the penetration of flammable liquids onto the hot surface.

Third layer: shock - and vibratio resistant insulating material - glass fibre and Rockwool are commonly used.

First layer: mechanical protection

There should also be a special focus on the steam turbine generators and incinerators.

Insulation DNV does not require the insulation to be approved, but the DNV Rules (Pt.4, Ch.7, Sec.3, B500) stipulate that “all insulation shall be covered with an outer barrier, which shall be impervious to liquid”. Any new insulation fitted during the

Fourth layer: protection against mechanical destruction due to relative movements between the engine part and the insulation system.

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vessel’s operational phase is expected to be of the same standard. Oil-soaked insulation must be replaced. The insulation system should be easy to install and remove.

Detection of hot surfaces Hot surfaces can be detected using one or more of the following methods: ■■ Surface/contact thermometer ■■ Laser-based Infrared Heat Tracers ■■ Infrared Thermoscanning Video Equipment ■■ Experience/common sense

Surface/contact thermometer Most thermometers will be able to give temperature readings within a few degrees Celsius of the true temperature. As these thermometers will be placed directly on the surface, the emissivity factor does not need to be estimated. Contact thermometers have some disadvantages as access to every object is required and each reading takes some time. Further, curved surfaces may be a challenge as the thermometer often takes several seconds to obtain a correct reading. In real life, the contact thermometer is suitable for large surfaces (engine bodies and exhaust ducts) and for calibration purposes.

Laser-based Infrared Heat Tracers “Lasertracers” are an effective tool when used correctly. All lasertracers will measure the average temperature in an area, which depends upon the distance from the lasertracer to the object. In most cases, this will be a different temperature than that of the spot indicated by the laser! It is important to be aware of this fact when carrying out the measurements. As lasertracers measure the temperature based on the radiation from the object, the emissivity has to be estimated (rate of reflection). For painted engine bodies, carbon steel pipes and suchlike, an emissivity rate of 0.85 to 0.98 may be used. If in doubt, calibrate using a surface thermometer.

Infrared Thermoscanning Video Equipment Thermoscanning has proven to be a powerful tool in detecting hot surfaces in the engine room. The equipment can be expensive and difficult to use, but in some cases it may be worthwhile hiring personnel to do surveys. A continuous infrared picture will be created. A conventional picture of the same object is recommended for tracing purposes. If such equipment is used as part of a formal DNV survey, a surveyor should be present to verify calibration.

Experience/common sense Good indicators of hot spots are faded or burned paint and destroyed/burned insulation. Unpainted steel will, when repeatedly heated, attain a surface colour that is distinguishable from that of unheated steel. The insulation of hot surfaces will be verified by DNV during periodical surveys. However, since most of the surveys are carried out while the vessel is alongside and with machinery running at low load (or not at all), it can be difficult to detect all the potential safety hazards, even with thermographic scanning of hot surfaces. If there are thermographic pictures available, these have often been taken without DNV being present and by using unknown equipment. There is no requirement to carry out such thermoscanning but it may be a useful tool in combination with visual inspections and common sense. Even though there has been a high focus on the insulation of hot surfaces since the requirement was introduced in SOLAS and made retroactive in 2003, DNV from time to time discovers vessels with uninsulated hot surfaces in the engine room. This may be because this was not part of the design requirements when the engine/vessel was delivered. If in doubt, the surface temperature should be verified using one of the methods explained above. It is in the best interests of ship managers to make dedicated efforts regarding all the above aspects in order to minimise risks due to hot spots being left undiscovered.

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of all engine-room fires are caused by oil leaking onto a hot surface

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Jacketed high-pressure fuel pipes All external high-pressure fuel delivery lines between the high-pressure fuel pumps and fuel injectors are required by the DNV Rules and SOLAS Regulations to be double-walled or jacketed. A jacketed piping system must be equipped with a leak collecting tank that has an alarm. This means that any possible leakage must be contained inside the pipes, be led to a separate tank and trigger an alarm. The fuel drain tank should not be used as a leak collecting tank. The leak collecting tank should hold less than approximately 1–30 litres, depending on the engine size. This is to make sure any possible leaks are detected at an early stage.

High-pressure fuel pipes may contain fuel-oil pressures of 1000-1500 bars, depending on the engine and fuel type, and the consequences of a leak are potentially catastrophic. Jacketed fuel lines may be a rigid sheathed type or a flexible sheathed type. In either case, the sheathing must fully enclose the pipe, seal the terminations and withstand and contain penetration by a fine spray or jet of oil due to a failure of the pipe during service. IMO Guideline MSC.1/ Circ.1321, Part III Chapter 3, gives examples of acceptable installations of jacketed fuel pipes. The annular space and drainage arrangements must be sufficient to ensure that, in the event of a complete fracture of the internal pipe, no excessive build-up of pressure can occur and cause the sheath to rupture. The drainage arrangement should further prevent contamination of lubrication oil by fuel oil. The sole purpose of the jacketed pipe is to contain the fuel from a possible high-pressure line failure. The general condition of the high-pressure fuel-oil system will be checked during periodical surveys, with special attention being paid to any possible leaks from the high-pressure pumps. However, DNV normally only conducts a survey once a year and it is important that the crew pay attention to these systems throughout the year. For vessels constructed prior to July 1998, a suitable enclosure may be accepted as an alternative to the jacketed fuel pipes for engines that have an output of 375kW or less and one fuel-injection pump serving more than one injector. As the enclosure is to be an alternative to a jacketed piping

system, it should in so far as possible meet the same requirements. The enclosure should: ■■ Together with existing “cold” surfaces (such as the engine block or inlet manifold), enclose the high-pressure piping in such a manner that a jet or spray from a leak will not be able to escape the enclosure and land on a potentially hot surface. ■■ Have sufficient strength to withstand penetration by a jet of fuel. ■■ Prevent leaking fuel from dripping onto potentially hot surfaces.

Leakage alarm The jacketed piping system must include a means for collecting leakage and arrangements are to be made for an alarm in the case of a fuel-line failure. On older engines, the tank for collecting the possible leak will be a retrofit, and several different shapes and sizes exist. On some two-stroke engines, each cylinder is provided with a dedicated alarm unit which is triggered by leaks originating from the high-pressure pipes and also cuts off fuel injection to the respective unit by activating a puncture valve on the fuel pump. The leakage collector lines are often located behind the fuel pump covers and leaks may be difficult to detect. In cases where the appearance of the engine indicates a fuel-oil leakage, it should be verified that the fuel-oil collector lines are in place, connected and open. Since it is highly likely that the leak-off lines leading to the tanks will be clogged

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with sludge from minor oil leaks, it is extremely relevant to check these and verify that they are clear in order to facilitate safe containment in the event of a leak. Verifying the jacketing of high-pressure fuel pipes and testing the leakage alarm are important elements of annual surveys, and the crew must at this time demonstrate the

fuel-oil leakage alarm. Any deficiency must be rectified before leaving port. If there is any doubt as to whether the relevant pipes are double-walled or not, part numbers can be verified against drawings available on board and/or spare parts can be checked.

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Screening of high/low pressure pipes containing flammable liquids If a leakage occurs in, for example, a flange connection in a piping system, an oil splash of several metres may be the result, even if the pressure in the pipe is relatively low. Pin-hole leaks in high-pressure fuel pipes may lead to oil spreading like a fog around the engine.

To prevent a fire from arising due to the above situation, not only should all hot surfaces be insulated, but some kind of screening should also be installed to prevent possible oil leaks from coming into contact with any potentially hot surfaces - even if the hot surfaces are already insulated! IMO, and hence DNV, are mainly focusing on pipe connections. This is because all our experience indicates that leakages occur in way of pipe connections and not in way of the piping itself.

are to a certain extent difficult to avoid. Probable reasons for leakages (not limited to) may be: ■■ Fatigue ■■ Poor damping of pressure pulses in low-pressure pipes ■■ Poor design (wrong applications) ■■ Overpressure ■■ Contact with hot surfaces (flexible bellows) ■■ Wrong assembly and sealing (jacketed pipes)

IMO Guideline MSC.1/Circ.1321 classifies flammable oil systems as follows: ■■ high-pressure oil systems – pressures of 100 bar (10 N/ mm2) and above. ■■ low-pressure systems – pressures between 1.8 bar (0.18 N/mm2) and 100 bar

Another reason that has become increasingly important over the last few years is the material in gaskets in fuel-oil systems. When operating on Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO), the high aromatic content (asphaltenes) in the HFO causes the sealing material to swell. If there is a change-over to lowsulphur distillate fuel with a low aromatic content, asphaltenes accumulated in the sealing material will be washed out, resulting in the gasket material shrinking. When the lower viscosity of the low-sulphur fuel is also taken into account, the risk of leakage is heavily increased. One probable reason is the intermittent heating and cooling of flanges/bolts which may loosen the connection and lead to leaks.

Please remember that the danger of ignition is not only related to the pressure of the flammable liquid. In fact, several engine-room fires have originated from leaks in low-pressure pipes.

O-rings and gaskets made of viton fluor hydrocarbon elastomers have shown to be less affected by high temperatures or variations in the aromatic content of fuels. However, the lower viscosity of the fuel should always be considered.

The purpose of the screening/shielding is not to prevent leakages, but to make sure that no oil spray or dripping from possible leaks hits any potentially hot surfaces, either by direct spray or by reflection.

Origin of leakages Oil leakages may typically occur at pipe flanges and pipe fittings, such as level gauges and flexible bellows, and they

IMO Guideline MSC.1/Circ.1321 (Part III Chapter 1.2) also mentions the possibility of high-pressure pulses in the fuel system. Instantaneous pressure pulses far exceed the rated design pressure of the low-pressure piping. An adverse effect of these pulses is gassing, leading to cavitation which has

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proven to damage fuel-injection pumps and valves as well as flexible piping. Some engine makers have replaced their original pulsation dampers and fitted new ones with larger capacity in order to better handle the high pulses in the system.

The critical items in piping systems are the pipe connections and fittings that may become loose and flexible hoses located in such a way that they could suffer external damage. Examples of screening are a spray shield around flanged connections or shields protecting valve blocks or other components with pipe/hose connections that, if they work loose, could cause spray.

Suitable screening/shielding Screening or shielding is required to be fitted around flanged and threaded connections in piping systems containing flammable liquids. This applies to piping systems for fuel oils, lubricating oils, hydraulic oils and other flammable liquids. The general rule is that any oil system with an internal pressure exceeding 1.8 bar and where a possible leakage may reach/hit any potential ignition sources by direct spray or deflection must be suitably screened. Ignition sources may be hot surfaces, machinery air intakes, electrical motors, etc. The screening may be made of a sheet metal enclosure or special screening tape. Screening by steel-sheets is the preferred method for flanges, whereas screening tape (also called anti-splashing tape) may be suitable for threaded pipe connections. The screening does not have to enclose the pipe connections, i.e. does not need to contain a leak. It is acceptable to have leakage dribbling out of the screening, of course provided there is no potentially hot surface beneath. It is in fact preferable to allow for visualisation (by e.g. dribbling) of the leakage in order to have the situation detected and rectified. However, no leakage-detection system is required in such cases. Flexible hoses have to be screened when installed in positions where, as mentioned above, they may suffer external damage. There is no requirement for type approval of screening arrangements or materials used; any solution that fulfils the intentions of the requirement is acceptable. This may include large area sheeting solutions covering many complex joints, individual joint wrappings, the re-routing of piping to “safe” areas or the complete enclosure of the piping and connector by a conduit.

There are a few different types of screening that have proven to be effective in order to achieve the above:

Enclosures made of steel sheets One acceptable screening method is to fit steel sheets around the flange. This steel sheet means that any oil leakage will not spray like a fan into the room but will instead drip down from the sheet.

Screening tape This is a special tape that is also referred to as “anti-splashing” tape. For flanged connections, steel sheets are the preferred screening method, but the tape can be used for threaded connections where other solutions are difficult. IMO Guideline MSC.1/Circ.1321 mentions that this tape should be made of “approved material”. DNV has typeapproved 4-5 different brands of anti-splashing tape, but neither the DNV Rules nor SOLAS requires the tape to be approved.

Anti-spray cover A type of anti-spray cover can also be utilised to prevent oil sprays in the case of leakages from pipe flanges. Anti-spray cover can be installed as shown in the drawing, but we recommend also covering the bolts to a certain degree. Thermal insulation of a certain thickness, covering the flange completely, may also be accepted as an anti-spray cover. We have also seen that some engine makers have prepared “kits” for installation on their engines. These “kits” provide effective screening and are simple to install.

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Some practical examples

The screening may be formed by parts of the engine construction itself. Take as an example a V-engine where the exhaust manifold and any other potentially (ref. above) hot surfaces are located within the V and where fuel pipelines (and connections) are located well down on the side of the engine. For these fuel-pipe connections, it will (depending on the engine construction and likelihood of a spray reaching potentially hot surfaces on the engine itself) be sufficient to apply a half-moon-shaped spray sheet around the outer part of the pipe connection. This spray sheet will prevent spray from reaching any potentially hot surface next to the engine.


Screening formed by parts of the engine construction itself:

Take as an example pipelines running in a longitudinal direction on top of cylinder heads but on the outer side (again a V-engine) of the rocker gear cover. Where pipe connections may be located in the “gap” between two adjacent rocker gear covers, spray from a leakage may reach parts of the exhaust manifold in the V. For such connections, a practical approach would be to apply circumferentially formed spray sheets around the connection that would prevent spray from reaching both the potentially hot exhaust manifold and any other potentially hot surfaces around the engine.


Pipe connections subject to circumferential screening:


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Human factor In DNV’s experience, the crew’s attitude to general cleanliness is very important and plays a crucial role in reducing the risk of fire. Equipment and material should be regularly checked to confirm that the insulation has been correctly installed and has not absorbed any flammable oils. When equipment has been maintained or repaired, care should be taken to ensure that the insulation has been properly reinstalled or replaced. The general attitude and awareness of the crew working in the engine room every day may in many cases be the tipping point with regard to the risk of fire in their engine room. A clean and tidy engine room represents a smaller fire hazard than a dirty engine room, so it is important for crew members to maintain a high focus on general cleanliness, and DNV surveyors will always point it out to the crew if the cleanliness is not up to standard. When insulation has been replaced or repaired, special attention should be paid to insulation areas where vibrations may be present, the discontinuous part of the exhaust-gas piping and turbo charger and other suspect areas. It is also very important that all parts are assembled correctly to prevent failure when starting up after maintenance.

Another aspect that is very important in preventing a fire is to apply the available measures correctly and at the right time. We often see that it takes too much time to release quick-closing valves and stop fuel pumps. It is very important to provide adequate training and to practise these rather simple actions. It can also be worth noting that, in light of recent low-sulphur regulations, low-sulphur fuel with a viscosity which is less than that of conventional heavy fuel oil has also proven to represent a risk with regard to fuel-oil leakages in the engine room.


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DNV’s role

The Additional Fire Protection (F-AMC) Class Notation

Even though the SOLAS requirements have been in force since 2003, missing or deteriorated insulation is still a common finding by DNV surveyors.

DNV offers specific class notations that apply to vessels with additional fire measures in accommodation spaces (Notation F-A), machinery spaces (Notation F-M) and the cargo area (notation F-C). Only vessels that comply with the SOLAS Convention (for cargo ships and passenger ships) can be assigned one or combinations of the F-A, F-M and F-C notations.

Major findings such as missing insulation, lack of screening, etc, may have severe consequences and must normally be rectified before leaving port. If a postponement is absolutely necessary, i.e. due to the unavailability of suitable materials, alternative prevention measures may be considered, a CA must be issued and the flag state is to be involved.

The requirements in the Rules for these class notations are supplementary to those given in the basic DNV Rules and the SOLAS Convention. Focus areas for the machinery spaces are: ■■ Thermoscanning of hot surfaces ■■ Reliable and rapid fire detection ■■ Early overview using TV monitoring ■■ Improved reliability of fire-extinguishing systems ■■ Provision of additional fire-fighting equipment Further information can be found in DNV’s Rules Pt 6 Ch 4 Additional Fire Protection (F-AMC).

Checklist for engine-room fire prevention: • When insulation has been removed for maintenance or some other reason, make sure it is put back on • Oil-soaked insulation must be replaced • Ensure that the engine room is clean and tidy and that no ignition sources are present • Pipes and fittings should be routinely checked for leakages • Function test the quick-closing valves regularly • Verify that the fire dampers are in sound condition • With the above-mentioned low-sulphur requirements in mind, and the possible frequent changeover from HFO to MGO, it will be recommended to take into account a check for leakages in the changeover procedures. We recommend that the onboard maintenance plan includes regular checks on the fire-prevention aspects covered in this Manager’s guide.

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