When the restart really starts

Jul 21, 2021 by Ruben Wansink, Regional Manager Europe

How will a restart affect your fire safety onboard?

Well into 2021, the good news is that Cruise companies are allowed to sail with paying passengers again out of U.S. ports. Also, we see that travelling in general is slowly picking up again. The merchant fleet has had its difficulties of another magnitude. First a slump in transport demand due to the crippling effects of the Pandemic, then huge difficulties to get crews back home and have new crews come in. And to make matters worse, a very large Container Vessel, the “MS Ever Given” got stuck for several days in the SUEZ canal, grinding global shipping transport to a halt. Now with global economies getting back up to speed, lockdowns during the pandemic and other factors lead to the lack of raw materials is causing price increases and production problems for many industries. That also is affecting some suppliers for firestopping materials. What does that mean for your ship

Looking at the newbuilding market, and then focusing on Cruise ships, we have not seen many cancellations. Many cruise owners have decided to postpone or delay their projects. Roughly 15 ships were delivered to cruise lines in 2020, although many did not start their maiden voyage yet. As of 2021, a further 37 remain on the orderbooks for 2021 and 30 for 2022.

Generally, cruise lines postponed rather than cancelled newbuild work, although a small portion of newbuild work has been cancelled. Shipyards Fincantieri and Chantiers de l’Atlantique both show busy orderbooks up into 2025, while the Meyer Werft Group show cruise vessels on order until 2024. MV-Werften also in Germany has announced several new orders now that their financing is in place. On the other hand, newbuild orders and deliveries of smaller Expedition Cruise ships have not shown any slowdown.

In 2020 many ships were tied up, either in operation with a skeleton crew so a minimal amount of crew to keep the ship machinery running, or totally turned off all together. Cruise Refurbishments were not halted but delayed or narrowed down to the bare minimum. Scrubber installations on merchant ships were much slower than in 2019.

Looking at the Cruise industry and the impact of COVID-19, reports show that ventilation and automation systems, such as touch free and voice controlled, are being installed. These changes will all lead to running new cables, removing cables, redoing pipe and running new pipes. HVAC systems need quite extensive cabling and pipe configurations, for example. This will have an impact on fire protection onboard, as any cable or pipe will typically pass through one or more fire zone barriers.

What does this mean for fire protection?

As mentioned above, lots of refurbishment and thus maintenance has been postponed and reduced. Even if ships were idle, the uncertainty and lack of income lead to less repairs onboard. Another factor is that bringing onboard specialized workers has shown to be difficult, due to COVID-19 measures and travel bans. In Europe, for example, workers from Portugal were flown into Norway to do electrical work because they did not require a quarantine period, as the country was one of the first out of lock-down this spring.

From our experience, lack of maintenance, lack of skilled workers and less financing can lead to savings and less upgrades on systems that involve safety. Special passive fire applications tend to be forgotten or left to the last moment to update, causing unsafe conditions that do not comply with Class regulations.

Another issue that might affect fire protection is less availability or longer lead times of products. As some manufacturers are dependent on raw materials or even full production in China, that affects their ability to deliver in a short time.

So once the restart really starts, our customers, turnkey contractors, electricians and pipe installers have already warned us that rush jobs will come. Ships will encounter systems that cannot restart, that need urgent maintenance to fully function. Now, for example, cruise ships have run at half capacity, or merchant ships have laid idle in some far away port. Availability and stock of the right materials and also finding skilled workers will add up to some big headaches for the Fleet Managers and Shipboard Superintendents.

How to keep Fire Safety in place and work fast?

The tone may be a little sobering, but fortunately there are solutions that make life much easier. It is important to know your systems and understand which regulations apply. There are systems on the market that require no welding when running cables or pipes through an A-60 or A-0 Class bulkhead or deck. STI Marine is always looking for solutions that can also be bolted or screw attached to a division.

For example, the MSS Marine Snap-Seal Cable Plug is the simplest and quickest A-60/A-0 cable transit on the market. Installation involves simply drilling a hole with a diameter Ø28 mm or Ø1.1 in, running one or more electrical cable or data cables (maximum total diameter 14mm), then snapping the Snap-Seal Cable Plug around the cable(s) and inserting it manually in the hole. Ready. Pre-bent tabs will automatically engage a range of division thicknesses, and it can be sealed off with MFS Marine Firestop Sealant to achieve an IP66 ingress protection rating.

If more cables or cable bundles must be run, then self-sealing EZ-Path® Marine Cable Transits can also be screw attached and have a capacity from 1 to 480 cables depending on the transit and the diameter of cables used.

These simple to install and non-welded solutions for cable and pipe penetrations
go all the way up to MFC-G, Marine Firestop Collars specially designed for very large SCRUBBER pipes in FRP (Fiber Reinforced Plastic, also known as GRP, GRE, GRVE etc). These easy to mount, lightweight pipe collars will allow for continuously run GRE pipe from the funnel down to the engine room without the use of large, extremely heavy, SMO Steel (SMO is an austenitic chromium-nickel-molybdenum stainless steel).

These segmented collars can be carried and installed by one worker. SMO passages can easily weigh up to 400kg (882 lbs) and are extremely bulky to hoist into a ship.

Example of an MFC-G A-60 GRE Pipe collar in 800mm diameter installed on a Cruise Ship. (Photo courtesy of LTH-Baas)

Skilled workers or onboard crew. Who can do the job?

This is certainly something that will have a huge impact the coming months or even years. It’s sad to see, as many skilled onboard engineers left the Maritime industry to other industries. They might not return quickly, which brings pressure on the remaining crew. Also bringing in contractors is a little harder these days, so having systems that can be easily installed without welding, and also without requiring inspection after competition by a Class Surveyor, is a huge win.

Restart will be hard as it will require getting your ship in top condition, or refurbishing the ship with new systems that require intensive cable management. So finding easy applications, that require little training and enough stock will be an important deal. STI Marine Firestop has all its products sufficiently in stock in multiple locations around the globe. The solutions have proven themselves and many contractors and onboard personnel have reported how easy they were to install, sometimes with the help of a short YouTube video. Off they went and restored Fire Protection for cable and pipe penetrations, as it should be. Without compromising the ships safety, their own safety and without requiring extensive training from a manufacturer.

Interested to know how we can speed up and simplify your cable and pipe installation? Contact me please rwansink@stimarine.com