The Hocke Net

1.19.12 - Ken Hocke Blog photo K vessels and fire load spaces

February 19, 2013

By 2010, the Coast Guard said significant progress had been made in the design and approval of structural fire protection materials such as fire resistant glazing and fire resistant furniture since 1997.

As a result, the U.S. Coast Guard updated NVIC 9-97, the "Guide to Structural Fire Protection," in July 2010. The update addressed the structural fire protection regulations in 46 CFR Chapter II-2 for SOLAS, IMO High-Speed Craft, and IMO Mobile Offshore Drilling Units. For passenger vessel owners and operators, it affects Subchapter K vessels that carry more than 150 passengers.

The July 2010 update, "Change 1 to NVIC 9-97, Guide to Structural Fire Protection," was done to reflect recent trends in the shipbuilding industry. The original guidance was written with large oceangoing passenger vessels in mind.

Consequently, the rules changed for shipyards building passenger vessels carrying more than 150 passengers, making it nearly impossible for shipyards building high-speed aluminum ferries to build a new Subchapter K boat.

In an effort to remedy the situation, the Coast Guard and industry formed a partnership to study whether it was possible to build K vessels with very low fire load spaces, employing strategies such as bench-scale experiments, site visits, full-scale computer models, and key controls identification.

“We were applying engineering fundamentals to policy development,” Capt. John Mauger, the Coast Guard's chief of office of design and engineering standards told an overflow crowd at the Passenger Vessel Association’s annual convention in Jacksonville, Fla., on Sunday.

One of the partnership’s goals was to improve “the body of knowledge,” said Mauger. That goal was accomplished.

What the studies proved was that the Coast Guard had it right in the first place. The guidelines shipbuilders were using concerning very low fire load spaces prior to the 2010 update were, indeed, the proper fire protection procedures to use when building K vessels. “We’re back, almost, to where we started,” said Mauger.

“PVA along with the Coast Guard has come together and the Coast Guard is issuing a memorandum here at the PVA convention further clarifying and explaining how we can continue to build these vessels,” said Joe Hudspeth, vice president of business development at Bellingham, Wash.-based All American Marine. 

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