Preventive Fire

A Guide to Marine Fire System Requirements

Extending the lifetime of your marine vessel requires employing proper fire safety equipment and conducting routine maintenance. For example, you might not know about the recently updated fire system requirements outlined by the U.S. Coast Guard in 33 CFR 175. But learning about these rules will help you protect your vessel and passengers from potential fires. Here’s what you need to know.

New Changes Regarding Fire Extinguisher Maintenance

In addition to fire alarms in key areas throughout the vessel, your marine vessel must be stocked with current, working fire extinguishers. In the past, NFPA 10 would have regulated the maintenance of those fire extinguishers, demanding strict compliance with testing and inspection requirements. 

33 CFR 175 removes those requirements but still adheres to the original intent of NFPA 10. The updated requirements simply state that all fire extinguishers must remain in “good and serviceable condition,” making the maintenance of fire protection systems more affordable for noncommercial boat owners.

Know How Many Fire Extinguishers Your Vessel Needs

Based on the size of your vessel, the Coast Guard also provides regulations for the number of fire extinguishers your vessel needs. 

If your vessel is up to 26 feet long, it must have at least one fire extinguisher. However, if your vessel has a fixed marine fire protection system (such as sprinklers), you are exempt from following this rule.

If your vessel is between 26 and 40 feet in length and doesn’t have a fixed fire suppression system, you’ll need two extinguishers. However, it only needs one portable fire extinguisher if it has fixed fire suppression.

Vessels between 40 to 65 feet in length require three portable fire extinguishers when there isn’t a fixed fire suppression system in place. With fixed suppression like sprinklers, only two fire extinguishers are required.

Know Where to Store Portable Fire Extinguishers

The Coast Guard’s regulations not only instruct owners on how many extinguishers to outfit a vessel with, but they also provide guidance on where to place them. Here’s what they recommend:

  • Near closed compartments that store portable fuel tanks
  • Near double bottoms that aren’t sealed to the hull
  • Near vessel bottoms that are not completely filled with flotation components
  • In enclosed living spaces
  • Near closed compartments that store flammable or combustible products
  • Near permanently installed fuel tanks

While these rules only strictly apply to mechanically propelled marine vessels, sailboat owners may also want to follow these regulations. After all, having sufficient fire suppression equipment is essential — especially if your boat has a kitchen and uses a power generator.

What if Your Marine Vessel Is Longer Than 65 Feet?

It’s important to note that there are special requirements for larger marine vessels. For those longer than 65 feet, the number of necessary fire extinguishers is determined by the weight of the vessel, rather than the length:

  • Up to 50 tons: 1 extinguisher
  • 50 to 100 tons: 2 extinguishers
  • 100 to 500 tons: 3 extinguishers
  • 500 to 1,000 tons: 6 extinguishers
  • Over 1,000 tons: 8 extinguishers

Additionally, for any vessel longer than 65 feet, the owner must install 20–B extinguishers in the engine compartment — one for each 1,000 brake horsepower (but not requiring more than six).

Finally, recreational vessels greater than 300 tons must either have a 160–B semi-portable fire extinguishing system or a fixed fire extinguishing system in the machinery space.

Protect Your Vessel With State-of-the-Art Equipment

Even when you have verified that your marine storage facility meets NFPA fire safety regulations, you can take additional steps to protect your vessel. Installing modern fire detection and suppression equipment will help you keep your vessel safer. 

Preventive Fire sells the equipment you need to protect your boat while it’s docked or when you’re out at sea.