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Control measure

Select the appropriate firefighting technique: Fires on board vessels

Control measure knowledge

To uphold the importance of firefighter safety it is important to ensure information is gathered from all available sources before deciding on the tactics for firefighting. Depending on the location, type, size and severity of a fire on board a vessel, several tactics are available to the incident commander.

Ship firefighting and incident planning considerations should consider that any single compartment, multiple compartments or primary containment boundary should be assessed from all six sides of the cube where physically possible.

This may also include any preplanning for Site-Specific Risk Information incident plans where there is a foreseeable risk from cargo operations, roll-on-roll-off-passenger (RoPax) ship and ferry operations, cruise terminals, etc. Where such plans exist, the incident commander should take appropriate time to re-evaluate the assumptions and tactics within the plan to ensure they are fit for the incident they are dealing with.

If a dedicated UK fire and rescue marine response (FRMR) team are handing this incident to a shore-side fire and rescue service, then the following terms may be used to describe the strategy and tactics employed:


The fire is extinguished or held within an area or compartment (on all six sides) by elements of construction (preferably fire-resisting), preventing immediate spread or endangerment of the vessel


The fire is 'contained' and resources are sufficient to 'maintain' that containment through firefighting actions (cooling, starvation, vertical ventilation or flooding)


The fire has breached fire resistant construction or is burning freely, but has the potential to be 'contained', by additional fire resistant structures, firefighting action, boundary cooling, ventilation or fire protection systems


The fire has developed to a stage where it is not possible to hold heat and products of combustion within a fire-resistant compartment with the resources available and uncontrolled spread will inevitably threaten vessel safety

Firefighting options

  • Using the vessel's fixed installations
  • Boundary cooling
  • Boundary starvation
  • Compartment flooding
  • Temperature monitoring strategy
  • Compartment smothering via lock down/starvation

Consideration should be given to the effects of sealing the compartment and monitoring the adjacent bulkheads/decks and deck heads.

  • Committing fire and rescue service personnel equipped with conventional hose lines, branches and breathing apparatus to a compartment involved in the fire
  • Foam application

For further information on firefighting methods refer to National Operational Guidance: Fires and firefighting - Select the correct firefighting technique

Strategic actions

Fire and rescue services should:
  • Have policies and procedures for dealing with fires involving vessels, where there is an anticipated risk

Tactical actions

Incident commanders should:
  • Liaise with the vessel's personnel regarding the availability of fixed installations and suppression systems

  • Develop an intervention strategy appropriate to current situational awareness and predicted fire development
  • Consider compartment boundary cooling, starvation or flooding as a strategy
  • Manage the vessel's ventilation systems in conjunction with the vessel's personnel

  • Carry out an analytical risk assessment to support the decision to re-open sealed fire compartments