Survitec’s advanced firefighting system and safety equipment aboard the Yara Birkeland – the world’s first fully autonomous container ship – has successfully completed its first annual service ahead of the 3,200 ship’s maiden voyage dwt. The fully electric, zero-emission Yara Birkeland is preparing to transport its first shipment of fertilizer on the Herøya-Brevik route in early 2022.
The groundbreaking vessel, which deployed on its maiden manned voyage in November, operates a unique, automatic, remote-controlled fire system designed and commissioned by lifesaving technology specialist Survitec.
Survitec’s scope of supply included a Novenco XFlow water mist system for the vessel’s eight separate battery rooms; an Inergen fire extinguishing system for the switchboard rooms, pump rooms, control rooms and electrical rooms; and an NFF XFlow Deluge system for cargo holds, open decks, superstructure and other compartments.
A wide range of self-contained fire safety and lifesaving equipment, including flares, radios, breathing apparatus, immersion suits and life jackets, also passed November inspection.
“The fire system on board Yara Birkeland is ready for safe operations, with crews monitoring the system from a virtual bridge and ashore machinery control room,” said Andreas Dåsvatn, account manager at Survitec. Continuing to comment on the different approach required to extinguish a fire on board an unmanned vessel, Dåsvatn explained: “Typically, fire systems are designed for manual operation, so we had to redesign the system to automatic activation based on signals received from heat, flame and fire sensors located all around the vessel. The fire systems also had to send signals to seawater pumps, gas cylinders and valves, providing alerts to operators ashore.
Mark Clegg, managing director of Survitec Fire Solutions, added that the whole system needed to be redesigned to facilitate independent activation from a virtual bridge and ashore machinery control room. “This new approach meant that we had to redesign the Novenco system for 60 minutes of operation instead of the 30 minutes specified for conventional vessels. Additionally, since the ship’s cargo holds are designed in accordance with the requirements of IMO MSC Circ.608 (which normally requires a manual approach to firefighting), the NFF XFlow Deluge nozzles had to be redesigned and set up for unmanned operation,” he said.
Additional fire safety features built into the ship included additional separate fire zones and system redundancy. Drain valves have also been incorporated into the system to allow automatic opening and closing to prevent open surface flooding.
The fire system on board the Yara Birkeland has placed Survitec at the forefront of fire safety technology for a new generation of autonomous vessels. A similar system is currently being designed for a pair of fully autonomous 67m ferries being built at a shipyard in India. Dåsvatn said: “This is just the start. As the industry begins to see these autonomous, alternative fuel vessels operating successfully and safely, demand will accelerate. We anticipate more autonomous ship projects in the coming years. But in terms of ship safety, we are already ahead of the curve.