The requirements regarding fire retardant treatments and those who can apply them on board vessels certified under the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) changed significantly when they came into force in October 2012, in the form of MGN 453 (M). From this date, any prior MCA accreditations were revoked and all companies involved in the fire retardant process must now be approved and certified in accordance with a new set of procedures. John Balodis from fire-retarding specialists and licensed applicators for Flame Screen Ltd, Inter-Nett, reveals that, aside from it being an important regulatory requirement that is often overlooked, fire retardant treatment is an indispensable safety defence for preventing a fire from taking hold on board.

Image courtesy of the United States Coast Guard.

In order to find out if a vessel needs fire retardant treatment, Balodis advises that captains should always consult with the flag surveyor, but if the vessel is for commercial charter, and fits within the parameters of LY2 or LY3, then it will require treatment in order to remain compliant. “A lot of people I speak to – technical heads, shipyards and captains – don’t appreciate the need to have this treatment, particularly on a new build,” explains Balodis. “Often they will be racing against deadlines to get the boat out of the shipyard and they don’t realise that, to be compliant to commercially charter the vessel, they need to have this treatment applied with recognised current certification from an approved practitioner.” The MGN note also states that recommended yearly re-treats are required and that no certificate should be valid for more than 24 months.

“More surveyors are now becoming aware of the need to check this certification but, depending on the flag, when the surveyor comes in to sign off the boat, they are either going to be up on this legislation or not,” Balodis adds. “We have had circumstances where captains have been in yachting for many years and have never heard of this change in requirement and it is because it is just one small, but vital, part of the overall requirements of a survey and surveyors are not always aware of the changes. But unlike something that is just done for the certification, fire retarding can be quite serious if it is not done properly, or at all, in some cases.”

"Unlike something that is just done for the certification, fire retarding can be quite serious if it is not done properly, or at all, in some cases.”

The essence of the message that Balodis is trying to convey is that fire retardant treatment is not just about obtaining another piece of paper for the a yacht, but it is about safety. “It is designed to give you some extra valuable minutes in the case of a fire,” he explains. “And it shouldn’t get to that point anyway because if a flame were to catch onto a fabric that has been treated, then it should snub itself out – it is preventative and proactive. I think that as people become more familiar with the need to have the work done and the process, then they will start to realise that it should be part of a yearly, scheduled refit programme,” Balodis concludes. “It is an insignificant cost in comparison to the cost of having to repair a vessel that has suffered a fire."

If a commercial vessel is over 500gt, then it is required to have a fogging system, which means that fire retardant treatment is not required, but Balodis emphasises that this is not necessarily a reason to forgo the treatment. “One boat that we work with is privately owned and they have a fogging system so they absolutely aren’t required to be treated,” he recalls. “But the captain has experienced a fire on a previous vessel so he wants to maximise anything he can do to protect the vessel. We often find that the crew that have experienced fires on board before are the ones that don’t ever question why.”

Inter-Nett are Licensed Applicators for Flame Screen Ltd. Approved for Large Yachts in accordance with MCA Marine Guidance Note MGN 453 (M) by BTTG Testing & Certification Ltd Certificate No:53/00047

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