A short steel pipe on the end of a fire hose creates a wall of water that effectively prevents the spreading of fires on deck The trainee captain behind the invention is Antti Aittola, who thinks that fire prevention at sea has major shortcomings.
The design is as simple as it is effective. An approximately 40 cm long steel pipe is fitted to a fire hose. A cut-off lid is welded to the end of the tube. When the jet of water hits the lid, a 180 degree sheet of water cuts off the fire and protects other cargo.
“The effect is much the same as when you hold a spoon under a water tap,” explains Antti Aittola. “We have tested the tube during fire drills and it works even better than expected.”
Antti Aittola worked for several years as a fireman in the Rescue Services before he began studying to become a sea captain in 2007. During his placement on ships, he has noted deficiencies in fire protection onboard several times. Last year he was on Tor Freesia and during a fire drill he was struck by how difficult it was to prevent the fire from spreading between the tightly-parked trucks on the weather deck. He came to think of a design he had seen several years earlier during a visit to Norway, and realised that something similar could be adapted to work at sea.
“The chief listened and thought it was a good idea. Following my instructions, he produced two tubes from material we already had. Now they have made a further six pipes and shared them with the other ships in the company,” says Antti Aittola.
Frees up more crew
The fire protection pipes are easy to put in place and require no extra supervision. The water from one pipe covers four to five trailers, and on Tor Freesia two pipes were enough to create a wall of water as wide as the ship.
“The advantage is that it frees up more of the crew, who can then help to extinguish the fire. Fire protection onboard is based on having many crewmembers to help, but with today’s minimum crews it doesn’t work,” he says.
Lives: In an apartment in Kalmar.
Occupation: Studying on the sea captain programme at Linnaeus University in Kalmar.
Currently: Was awarded SEK 25,000 as a prize for the firefighting pipes at the Foundation for Swedish Seamen prize-giving day on 9 May.
Background: Has worked as a fireman among other things. Began studying to become a sea captain in Mariehamn on Åland in 2007, and changed to Kalmar in 2010.
Work environment tips: Buy smoke diving equipment of good quality and see every fire drill as a course in which you can explore new situations. Aim to minimise the need for smoke divers through the installation of sprinkler systems, such as ”high fog” in the personnel rooms. If you are your own safety officer, you can go far.
By the summer 41-year-old Antti Aittola counts on getting his sea captain diploma. He has had an interest in shipping for a long time and as soon as he had finished school, he planned to go to sea. It was not to be, however. Instead he ended up working with the Rescue Services, where he was employed for some years before he decided to work at sea. He says that he is happy with his choice of profession, but that fire protection onboard is generally not good enough.
“I particularly reacted to the fact that the AFSEN regulations on smoke diving were not followed during practice. I have been in situations where smoke diving radios were not working, and when protective hats were not pulled down fully during drills.”
According to Antti Aittola, there are several measures that are necessary to improve fire safety. The guiding principle should be to reduce the need for smoke diving as much as possible.
”Those who work onboard are sailors, not firemen, but they are still expected to act as if they are firemen when things get hot. But they have too little training, and there is a big difference between practicing in a container onshore and a real fire, when it is so hot that your boots melt. According to the Swedish Work Environment Authority, smoke diving is the most dangerous work permitted in Sweden and I think we should have sprinklers wherever possible onboard in order to avoid smoke diving.”
The procedures for fire drills as well as the equipment need to be looked over, according to Antti Aittola.
”Every exercise should be seen as a course in which you train different skills in different situations. As things are at the moment, it is just a test where you do the same thing over and over again. You work against the clock and want to get through it as soon as possible. I understand that it is difficult to find the time for everything onboard, which is why shipping companies should have one person who moves around and helps out on the ships. We must have good equipment too. Some shipping companies only buy the cheapest equipment with thin suits that are no good for anything.”