Smoke on the water: Finally, a better way to fight fire aboard cargo ships

Fire! The word suggests thoughts of emergency, loss of structures and trucks racing to put out the flames. But what if the fire is on a ship in the middle of the sea?, says Dhruthi Pyla of Dublin Jerome High School.

Usually, such a fire is catastrophic. That was the case recently when a fire broke out on a large cargo ship transporting luxury German vehicles to the U.S. The ship founder in the mid-Atlantic for nearly two weeks before sinking.

It may surprise you to know that fire on ships is a common occurrence. Fire is the third largest cause of cargo loss since 2010 and normally brings not only financial costs but often loss of life and major environmental impacts. In 2019, there was a fire on a cargo ship every 60 days.

The current fire-detection systems on cargo ships have been outgrown over the past few decades. According to Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty, the container-carrying capacity of cargo ships has increased 1,500% since 1968. And ships continue to grow as the demand for global goods increases.

Part of the problem is that, as cargo ships have grown in size, systems for detecting fires on ships have pretty much stayed the same. This can result in a delay before fire is detected, which means fires can explode into major incidents before the crew is alerted to the situation.

Cargo ships currently use smoke-extraction systems to detect fires. These systems extract air from the cargo hold and monitor for smoke particles using a photoelectric sensor. However, because the air is only exchanged in the cargo hold up to six times an hour, these systems can be slow to detect a fire. A delay in fire detection allows the fire to grow and spread to other containers before an alarm is triggered. That’s why many industry safety leaders have called for a transition in fire-detection tools to systems that use advanced technology to detect fires faster.

Faster, better fire detection

One potential solution is a student-led project called the Sea Smoke Fire Detection System, which uses a series of magnetic sensors to detect smoke and any increase in heat inside a cargo hold. Created by 5736 Techno Botz team of the Glacier Ridge Elementary School, these sensors communicate wirelessly with alarms via a Thread network, which is a state-of-art, low-power, self-healing, mesh-networking technology.

In a Thread network, each sensor sends location specific alarms to a control interface on the ship’s bridge and to crew communication devices. The advantage of Thread is that there is no single point of failure because the network self-heals to maintain reliability and signals any malfunction on the interface. If one node fails, the network will find an alternate path for the data to be transmitted. The Thread network enables faster and reliable notification that a fire is present. Faster notification allows the crew to take immediate action to suppress the fire.

The sensors of the Sea Smoke system have a strong magnetic back, which means the system can easily be configured to any type of cargo hold. Each sensor contains a smoke detector and a “rate of rise” heat detector, so both smoke and a sharp increase in heat within the cargo hold are detected. The low-power sensors have a battery life of four to five years, which aligns with the routine maintenance schedule of most ships. The batteries can easily be changed while a ship is undergoing scheduled maintenance in dry dock.

A solution for larger ships

The smoke-extraction systems on these massive ships cannot quickly detect smoke within their cargo holds. The Sea Smoke system can, detecting fire faster by using sensors that are easily configured to not just any cargo hold, but to existing and new cargo holds. As mentioned, the system also uses a state-of-art, low-power, mesh-networking technology that offers a secure, self-correcting network for alarm signals. The faster detection of fires using the Sea Smoke system gives the crew the ability to quickly identify fire and begin fire-suppression measures.

Dhruthi Pyla

Faster fire detection is a topic of major interest within the global maritime shipping industry, due to the persistent frequency of fires. The ability to fight fires by adapting emerging innovations to existing and new cargo ships has strong appeal to maritime shipping companies.

That’s why Sea Smoke is so vital. The system allows for the faster detection of fires, which leads to faster suppression. The system benefits not only the maritime shipping companies and their customers but also has a positive impact by decreasing injuries and reducing financial losses caused by fire.

The author is Dhruthi Pyla of Dublin Jerome High School.

About the author

Dhruthi Pyla will be a freshman at Dublin Jerome High School in the fall of 2022 and is a five year member of the TechnoBotz, a community based FIRST Lego Robotics Team.

Comment on this article below or via Twitter: @IoTNow_OR @jcIoTnow

RECENT ARTICLES

Aeris Intelligent IoT network provides System Loco with reliable connectivity for worldwide track and trace of sustainable IoT-enabled smart pallets

Posted on: July 5, 2022

Aeris, the global Internet of Things (IoT) solutions provider, announced that System Loco, a global provider of supply chain and asset tracking solutions, has selected the Aeris Intelligent IoT Network to provide next generation connectivity to support and manage the worldwide track and trace of smart pallets employed by System Loco’s customers throughout the world.

Read more

Removing IT bottlenecks: The key’s simplicit

Posted on: July 5, 2022

A report by Mulesoft found that the IT teams of just 37% of organisations completed all of their assigned projects last year. Digitalisation can gather valuable data insights and optimise processes, but progress is often held back by the large IT workload such projects create. Here, Johan Jonzon, CMO and co-founder in edge analytics for

Read more
FEATURED IoT STORIES

9 IoT applications that will change everything

Posted on: September 1, 2021

Whether you are a future-minded CEO, tech-driven CEO or IT leader, you’ve come across the term IoT before. It’s often used alongside superlatives regarding how it will revolutionize the way you work, play, and live. But is it just another buzzword, or is it the as-promised technological holy grail? The truth is that Internet of

Read more

Which IoT Platform 2021? IoT Now Enterprise Buyers’ Guide

Posted on: August 30, 2021

There are several different parts in a complete IoT solution, all of which must work together to get the result needed, write IoT Now Enterprise Buyers’ Guide – Which IoT Platform 2021? authors Robin Duke-Woolley, the CEO and Bill Ingle, a senior analyst, at Beecham Research. Figure 1 shows these parts and, although not all

Read more

CAT-M1 vs NB-IoT – examining the real differences

Posted on: June 21, 2021

As industry players look to provide the next generation of IoT connectivity, two different standards have emerged under release 13 of 3GPP – CAT-M1 and NB-IoT.

Read more

IoT and home automation: What does the future hold?

Posted on: June 10, 2020

Once a dream, home automation using iot is slowly but steadily becoming a part of daily lives around the world. In fact, it is believed that the global market for smart home automation will reach $40 billion by 2020.

Read more

5 challenges still facing the Internet of Things

Posted on: June 3, 2020

The Internet of Things (IoT) has quickly become a huge part of how people live, communicate and do business. All around the world, web-enabled devices are turning our world into a more switched-on place to live.

Read more

What is IoT?

Posted on: July 7, 2019

What is IoT Data as a new oil IoT connectivity What is IoT video So what’s IoT? The phrase ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) is officially everywhere. It constantly shows up in my Google news feed, the weekend tech supplements are waxing lyrical about it and the volume of marketing emails I receive advertising ‘smart, connected

Read more
IoT Newsletter

Join the IoT Now online community for FREE, to receive: Exclusive offers for entry to all the IoT events that matter, round the world

Free access to a huge selection of the latest IoT analyst reports and industry whitepapers

The latest IoT news, as it breaks, to your inbox