Boaters advised to conduct proper checks - Fire risk

You're the skipper - You're responsible
Roads and Maritime Services NSW is reminding owners of inboard petrol engine vessels to conduct appropriate safety checks before heading out on the water after a vessel fire on Lake Mulwala yesterday.

About 3pm yesterday, a ski boat caught fire while operating on Lake Mulwala. The sole occupant of the vessel was fortunate to receive only minor flash burns in the incident. Maritime Services Acting General Manager Maritime Operations Trevor Williams said inboard petrol engines – such as those often used in ski boats - pose a risk of fire and explosion if appropriate precautions aren’t taken.

'The risk of fire can be minimised by the fitting of a ventilation system, regularly checking bilges and fuel systems for signs of leaks, and always carefully ventilating the bilge and engine space before starting the engine,' Mr Williams said. 'Boats with under-floor fuel tanks also pose an increased fire safety risk when it comes to maintenance and operation, and especially refuelling.'

Mr Williams said petrol fumes are denser than air and can accumulate in a vessel’s bilge or in low parts of a cabin if not properly ventilated. 'Petrol fumes can easily explode if there are any ignition sources present, such as a naked flame or even an electrical spark,' Mr Williams said. 'The main risk is just after refuelling. However, fire or explosions can occur at other times if there is even the smallest fuel leak.'

Some safety tips for boats with inboard petrol engines are:·
Switch off the engine before refuelling;·
Turn off all potential sources of flames or sparks such as cigarettes, pilot lights and batteries;·
Know where the nearest spill kit is located, and consider carrying a small kit on board;·
Have all passengers and crew leave the vessel when refuelling;·
Do not overfill the tank;·
Clean up any fuel spill;·
Use your sense of smell to judge if the boat is free of fumes;·
Only allow passengers on the vessel after the engine has started and run for several minutes;·
Don’t use a vacuum cleaner onboard, which can suck petrol fumes into the electric motor; and·
Carry a fire extinguisher.

Roads and Maritime Services Boating Safety Officers only last week completed a campaign – Operation Tow Safe - in which inboard engine fire prevention was a focus. Mr Williams said while most fire-related incidents involve larger petrol inboard vessels, PWC operators should also ensure their vessels are properly serviced after a PWC recently exploded in Corowa.

For more information on the prevention of boat fires go to www.maritime.nsw.gov.au