Firetrace can contend with harsh port environments

Firetrace can contend with harsh port environments

Resolving risks the Firetrace way

The specialist in providing automatic fire detection and suppression solutions indicates that preparing adequately in advance can keep facilities safe and prevent huge losses

01 May 2013

The long-term economic growth prospects for the Gulf region are highly dependent on the development of the Gulf-wide port infrastructure and the efficiency and reliability of the region’s intermodal freight transport resources, whereby goods – usually containerised – are transported using a combination of ship, rail and road transport.   The region is fast being recognised for its trade links to the Far East and Australasia, Europe and North America, and massive sums are being invested in container terminals, rail networks and major highways, fuelled by soaring non-oil exports.

The challenge though is that the efficiency and reliability of such sophisticated intermodal transportation can be put in jeopardy due to the threat that fire poses to these mission-critical pieces of equipment, risking the possible disruption of logistics operations. This can so easily result in significant revenue losses, the destruction of expensive equipment and plummeting customer satisfaction levels, not to mention the prospect of the injury or death of employees. Engine and motor compartments, battery compartments, transmissions, torque converters, braking systems, belly pans, hydraulic/fuel pumps and high-pressure hoses are all high-ignition-potential areas. 

Certainly, the evidence is there to show that the risk of fire is very real. One of the USA’s leading international transport and logistics insurers is on record as acknowledging that handling equipment fires are a widespread problem at ports, terminals and distribution centres.  In a two-year period, this one company received 50 claims for hydraulic fires in such equipment, with straddle carriers, cranes and lift trucks accounting for just short of 80 per cent of insurance claims. 

Automatic around-the-clock fire protection
is vital for 24/7 equipment protection

However, according to Firetrace International, which specialises in providing automatic fire detection and suppression for these demanding applications, the vast majority of the risks can be resolved quickly, reliably and cost effectively for both new and existing equipment. The company, which has offices in Dubai with dedicated sales, operational and technical resources, points to any number of successfully completed Firetrace installations including retro-fitted systems to protect the engine compartments and electrical cabinets of dockside cranes, safeguarding heavy ore-moving crawler equipment in high-reach container stackers and in rail stackers that are used for loading containers onto rolling stock.

The common characteristic of all of these applications is that the major fire risks are within contained environments, cabinets or what are frequently referred to as “micro-environments”. This enables each of them to be safeguarded with dedicated detection and suppression. According to Jim Dickinson, who heads up the Firetrace International operation in Dubai, there are nevertheless a number of key considerations that need to be taken into account when selecting a system to provide this protection. He cites a 10-point checklist. To be reliably effective and efficient, Dickinson says that the chosen solution should:

• Combine both fire detection and fire suppression in a single, integrated package. One without the other is only a part, and often ultimately an expensive, solution.

• Respond to a handling equipment fire with proven 100 per cent reliability.

• Deliver around-the-clock reliability, as this type of equipment is frequently in operation 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

• Provide unsupervised, automatic protection, without the need for manual intervention.

• Ensure proven immunity to false alarms to avoid costly stoppages and unnecessary suppression discharges.

• Be robustly engineered to contend with harsh conditions. These challenges can include severe vibration, dust, debris, salt water environments and airflow around the protected compartment.

• Withstand extreme temperatures and wide temperature variations.

• Stop a fire precisely where it breaks out, before it has any opportunity to take hold and spread to engulf the entire piece of equipment.  

• Not require any external power, which might fail, rendering the fire protection useless.

• Be intrinsically safe, particularly in hazardous environments, so as not to add to the fire risk.

“It really is a relatively straightforward decision-making process,” argues Jim Dickinson. “If a system being considered to protect an essential piece of handling equipment cannot have a tick in every one of these 10 boxes, its use and reliability is seriously flawed.” 

He continues: “There are other factors that can come into play even if a system can tick all of these boxes. For example, the considerable space and weight associated with the suppression agent required by some systems can be a deal breaker in some applications. The need to embark on extensive suppression agent clean-up after discharge or the risk of agent discharge actually damaging sensitive electrical equipment or causing corrosion also has to be taken into consideration.”

He concludes: “With the number of high-profile fires that have broken out in the Gulf in the past couple of years, it is encouraging to see that far greater attention is now being taken of a fire detection and suppression system’s compliance with internationally accepted standards and codes of practice, such as NFPA 2001:2012 and BS EN 15004:2008.  Additionally, the growth of Firetrace International’s business in the region clearly shows that the forward-looking companies in the intermodal transport sector have been quick to appreciate that business continuity and the protection of business-critical assets are essential to maintaining year-on-year growth in their business sector.”

ISO 9001:2008-certified Firetrace International is headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona, with its EMEA offices in Gatwick in the UK. The company’s website is at

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