Heat wave increases risk of fires on boats

Friday 4  January 2013

Roads and Maritime Services is reminding boaters to be alert to increased risk of fires and explosions starting on vessels as hotter weather descends on the state.

“Thousands of boaters are expected to head out on the state’s waterways this weekend, with the Bureau of Meteorology predicting temperatures in the high 30s and low 40s for large parts of inland New South Wales and high 20s and low 30s along much of the coast,” an RMS spokesperson said.

“As the weather heats up, so do boat hulls and when a fire starts on a small vessel, it spreads rapidly, generates intense heat and is extremely difficult to put out.

“In the two decades to December 2011, there were 139 explosions, fuel fires and engine fires on vessels in NSW waterways resulting in two fatalities, more than 30 serious injuries and over 70 minor injuries.

“Only 14 per cent of the 230,000 vessels registered in NSW have inboard petrol engines, however petrol inboard vessels account for more than 70% of vessel fires.

“Injury severity is also worse in incidents on inboard petrol engines and average vessel damage cost is more than $25,000.

“To prevent against fires and explosions on petrol or diesel fuelled boats, many of which happen just after refuelling, RMS advises:

  • Have an approved, serviced fire extinguisher, ready and know how to use it
  • Keep the bilge, engine compartment and engine clean and free of combustible materials
  • Check engine compartments are properly ventilated (especially on hot days and when recently refuelled), fitting a blower system will aid in this process.
  • Be careful when using fuel stoves and lamps – don’t store your extinguisher close to the stove or engine compartment
  • Check your fuel system regularly for leaks
  • Check the electrical system for faults and keep all components in a clean state
  • Don’t fill your fuel caddies in the boat; take them ashore when fuelling
  • Clean up fuel spills quickly

On LPG powered boats, the risk is suffocation after a gas explosion so boaters need to:

  • Make sure gas storage bottles are located in a well-ventilated space
  • Ensure all LPG installations are performed and serviced by a licensed gas fitter.
  • Ensure all appliances are firmly secured and protected from draughts.
  • Ensure cylinders and appliances are suitable for marine use.

“No matter your fuel type, carry a complete first aid kit aboard, appropriate to the size of the boat.

“For more boating safety information visit www.maritime.nsw.gov.au or call the Maritime Info Line on 13 12 56,” the spokesperson said.

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