Safety update

May 1998 Equipment information and testing of systems

This safety update is for owners and operators of all vessels. It is issued to raise awareness of the importance of understanding and testing emergency systems. It provides safe practice tips for how best to reduce the risks involved and to alert people to the risk to safety associated with not regularly testing emergency equipment.


A recent fire on board a 33 metre fishing vessel was caused by a fuel leak which was ignited by the main engine exhaust manifold. The spread of fire could have been prevented if the crew had known how the fire alarm system worked and had tested it. There was an assumption on board that the emergency system would operate normally when required but, as the manuals were in German, it was difficult for the crew to check how to operate, test and maintain it.

Safe practice tips

Maritime New Zealand accident investigators have made the following recommendations to owners and operators of vessels to prevent fires onboard and ensure effective fire fighting:

  • Inspect fuel oil systems for weak points from both a design and maintenance point of view.
  • Test fire alarms and fire fighting systems regularly
  • Ensure the crew know how the fire alarm system works and how to test it
  • Ensure all emergency equipment is labelled appropriately and that manuals for the emergency system are written in the language of the crew
  • Hold regular emergency drills.

Original source content - Boat Notice 011998, May: Equipment information and testing of systems.

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