Wheel Mark Certified – ships and why they need fire safety equipment

The Wheel Mark certification is widely recognised as a symbol of quality and assurance of safety for marine equipment. It is the mark that symbolises compliance with European safety regulations laid out in the Marine Equipment Directive, 96/98/EC, and an important indicator of the manufacturing standards equipment has been put through.



Introduced in 1999, the Marine Equipment Directive was brought in to ensure that marine safety equipment was produced to an internationally recognised standard of safety and covers equipment carried aboard any ship belonging to one of the European Member States. A certificate produced under the Marine Equipment Directive has the benefit of being accepted in all EU countries and is needed for all safety equipment that may be carried aboard ships including life-saving devices, navigation equipment, radio communication equipment and fire safety equipment. All the products listed under Annex A of the directive, as below, may carry a Wheel Mark.

  1. Life-saving appliances
  2. Marine pollution prevention
  3. Navigation equipment
  4. Radio communication equipment
  5. Equipment required under COLREG 72 (Navigation lights)
  6. Equipment under SOLAS Chapter II-1 (Water level detectors)

Each piece of equipment has a set of regulations to follow as well as standardised testing procedures in place for their manufacture.



All ships are required by law to carry certain items of emergency equipment, including several pieces of firefighting equipment.

Between 2006 and 2008, there were 465 reported fire incidents on board merchant ships which resulted in 1216 reported deaths, or missing individuals. Observance of fire safety on board ships is essential and it is important that the correct pieces of equipment are carried at all times, as well ensuring all crew members are adequately trained in how to maintain and operate equipment in the event of an emergency. All fire safety equipment on board a ship must also undergo Module B (EC Type Examination) by a Notified Body. Specific rules on what must be carried depends on the size of the ship with large ships falling under the Merchant Shipping (Fire Protection: Large Ships) Regulations 1998 and small ships under the Merchant Shipping (Fire Protection: Small Ships) Regulations 1998. In addition to this, the Merchant Shipping (Fire Protection) Regulations 2003 contains amendments to both of these.

The main pieces of fire safety equipment found on ships include fire extinguishers, fire blankets and fire alarms. The quantity of various pieces of equipment will depend on the size of the boat as well as what other equipment they are carrying on board as things like cooking, heating or lighting appliances can all increase the risk of a potential fire. All pieces of equipment should be properly certified where necessary, as well as regularly inspected and maintained, and all crew members must be properly trained in how to use any equipment carried on the ship.



The main cause of fires on board ships is usually down to an electrical fault.

This could be due to cheap or poor quality electrical equipment being used on board, battery failure (particularly lithium batteries) or overloaded extension leads. There are often insufficient electrical sockets on board ships, particularly in accommodation quarters, for the amount of electrical devices now commonly used in everyday life. As such, multiple devices may be plugged in to extension leads and this can easily overload them. Electrical equipment on board ships should always be used careful and with proper attention given to the potential consequences. This could include restricting the usage of high current electrical items such as kettles and fans, as well as carrying out regular checks on electrical equipment and replacing anything that could be faulty immediately.

Another common cause of fires on board ships is an incident within the engine room.

This could come from a fuel leak, particularly on to hot surfaces, badly executed repairs or maintenance and poor quality equipment. The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) demands that a rigorous observance of the International Safety Management code (ISM) is followed. This includes a strict maintenance schedule which aims to significantly reduce any failures which could lead to a potential fire.