Engine Room Fires: IUMI-IACS work group

By Svenn L. Andersen, Senior Surveyor, Norwegian Hull Club & Chairman of the IUMI-IACS Work Group

IUMI and IACS (International Association of Classification Societies) have established a working group to study “Fires in engine rooms due to leakage from low pressure fuel and lubrication oil systems”. This is a Correspondence Group (CG), meaning that meetings and information sharing is arranged via Skype and e-mails.

Since June 2019 representatives from IACS and IUMI have shared information from incidences onboard different types of ships, which the work group is reviewing, with the purpose of identifying methods and procedures to reduce the risk of fire.

Work on this topic started in early 2018 in Cefor’s Technical Forum, as there was growing concern with the increased numbers of engine room fires, particularly related to low pressure fuel and lubrication oil leak.

With inputs from other insurance companies within Cefor, the Norwegian Hull Club has collected reports from cases occurring over the past 10 years, resulting in an anonymous summary report and presentation that has been shared with all parties.

Leaks from fuel and lubricating oil systems have resulted in oil igniting after coming in contact with hot surfaces in the engine room. In comparison with fuel leaks from high pressure fuel pipes, leaks from low pressure pipes can be more serious due to the steady, voluminous flow of oil providing a continuous source of fuel to the fire until it runs out and/or is stopped.

Even a small fire in the engine room may develop into a complex and dangerous fire which can be difficult to distinguish by the crew, despite the use of fixed fire extinguishing systems ready to use at all times. The most serious danger is to the lives of the crew and the environment. Added to this is the total cost of damages and down time for repairs after an engine room fire. This can be considerable - in some cases the vessel can be declared a total loss due to the extent of the damage.

With the emphasis on reducing risk the of fire, the group is looking into solutions related to machinery and piping design, survey and inspection methods, onboard maintenance regime and possible changes to current rules and regulations.

The group`s goal is to identify methods to avoid an increasing number of fires due to fuel and lubricating oil leaks, which in some serios cases have regretfully resulted in loss of life.

Taking measures to avoid fires on ships is high on the maritime industry’s agenda, and we believe that the establishment of the IACS-IUMI working group, amongst other initiatives across the world, could contribute to reducing risk of fires and improving safety at sea.


This issue was added to the IUMI Policy Forum’s Agenda in April 2020.