Explosion Protection Ahoy Ex-Zones! Explosion Protection Equipments Sets Sails for Hazardous Waters

Editor: Dominik Stephan

A fire fighting vessel in the heart of Europe's industrial and chemical clusters needs special equipment: Equipped with specialised technology, Europe’s latest high-tech fire-fighting boat is able to work in hazardous atmospheres, fighting fires, explosions and chemical accidents. Its secret? Explosion-protected electrical equipment and lighting by technology specialists Eaton.

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The Fireboat ‘Metropolregion’ in the port of Mannheim
The Fireboat ‘Metropolregion’ in the port of Mannheim
(Picture: Eaton)

The Mannheimer Fire Department’s ‘Metropolregion’ firefighting boat is one of the most modern, well-equipped firefighting boats in Europe. Approved for driving on tanker ports 23 metres long and up to 40 km/h, this high-speed firefighting boat was put into service by the Mannheim fire department.

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On the boat, mixed teams made up of members of the Mannheim and Ludwigshafen fire brigades and the BASF plant’s fire brigade can be called into action. The boat covers a very wide area of the Rhine, from Germersheim to Worms, the Neckar all the way to the Neckargmünd lock.

The Latest High Performance Boat Technology

As well as being equipped with the very latest ship technology such as dual jet propulsion, bow thruster, radar, combination steering gear and surveillance technology, the ‘Metropolregion’ also has three high-performance fire service pumps, a foam mixer extinguisher, a bow monitor foam water cannon, a rear view monitor hollow and spray nozzle, 2-off 7-part hose connections for delivering water to landside-based firefighters. Power is supplied by two MAN V12 1100hp Common Rail diesel engines with permanent preheating in order to ensure there are no engine start-up delays.

The electrical equipment on the boat must withstand the harshest of conditions, including the release of chemicals, flammables and explosive substances, or oil spills. With the constant risk of an explosive atmosphere, the safety of the crew and fire-fighting teams must be respected at all times. Therefore, the boat’s design and operation is consistently based on a comprehensive explosion-protection concept. The core concept is based on the pressurisation of interior spaces on the boat, which draws fresh air from an aspiration port located 5.5 metres above the water surface level.

The equipment room in the bow of the boat is designed as a lock. A gas detection system, which comprises of four sensors mounted at different heights, detects the presence of an explosive atmosphere and automatically switches to explosion-proof equipment. This means that equipment that is not explosion-protected is turned off in the equipment room an in outdoor areas and only the ATEX 94/9/EC certified electrical equipment and lighting for use in Zone 1 and Zone 2 hazardous areas are in operation.

The electrical equipment consists of two CEAG wall sockets/outlets, which are located on external areas of the boat. These enable the flexible connection of explosion-protected electrical equipment such as pumps and searchlights. Lighting of the equipment compartment in the lock area comprises of two CEAG 2x58W, Zone 1 fluorescent light fittings, which are controlled by two explosion-proof changeover switches.

Outdoor Lighting

The requirements for explosion-proof lighting in outdoor areas are governed by European ATEX standards for Zone 1 and by the requirements for use on a watercraft. Therefore, all lighting must be protected to at least IP65, in order to withstand the constant exposure to moisture and splash water. In addition, the lighting needs to be robust and insensitive to shock and vibration that occur when the boat is operating.

LED-driven lighting is particularly suitable for such harsh conditions, as they are shock-resistant and, unlike incandescent or high-pressure discharge lamps, LED lights have no filament or glass bulb. Other advantages of this innovative LED lighting technology are its high light output (lumen) but low energy consumption, as well as its direct switch-on capability without requiring a start-up/warm-up phase.

LED Technology for Extra Safety

For the illumination of walkways and firewater port batteries on the boat, tubular explosion-proof LED machine lamps are provided. Approved for use in Zone 1, 2, 21 and 22 hazardous areas, and protected to temperature class T5 and IP68, these lamps are ideally suited for this type of harsh application. In addition, the lamps have a very compact enclosure that can be installed even in the most confined spaces. Therefore, the two 18W lamps are used for both illuminating the hose connections located in front of the batteries, as well as for the running gear. Glare and weather protection is provided by a protective roof located below the handrail. The 6W LED lights, which are positioned to illuminate the walkways along the side of the boat, are integrated into the bulwark, enabling the deck to be illuminated without glare.

The diving deck below the quarterdeck, where the dinghy is also located, is illuminated safely without glare by two 6W LED lights. For uniform illumination of the work area on the foredeck, two 6W machine lamps are provided, mounted above the equipment compartment.

For illumination of work areas on the fore and aft deck for the two foam-/water-cannon and the three loading cranes, Explosion-proof LPL LED spotlights with 150W power rating are installed. These powerful spotlights are highly protected to IP66, have a light output equivalent to that of a 250W high-pressure discharge lamp, and can also be used at ambient temperatures from -35°C to +40°C. The lights are approved for use in Zone 1, 2, 21 and 22 hazardous areas and so at all times, even when an explosive atmosphere is present, are able to safely illuminate the work areas for the fire crews.

The boat’s innovative design concept has already proved itself in operation and will be replicated in future fire fighting boat projects. In the summer 2103, the boat passed its practical tests with flying colours during a major fire of a big riverside warehouse in Ludwigshafen.