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Question - Firefighting measures on the Spirit of Tasmania

Question without notice, Wednesday 4th May 2022


[2.44 p.m.]

Mr President, Felicity Ace, a 60 000-tonne vessel recently caught fire in February 2022 and sank in the Atlantic Ocean with 4000 luxury vehicles worth an estimated $400 million. According to the captain this was possibly owing to a fire fuelled by lithium ion batteries and electric vehicles on board. With the increase of electric vehicles, and given that vehicles are imported to Tasmania by sea, can the Deputy Leader please advise:

(1) Is the Spirit of Tasmania equipped to manage fire risks of this nature given that fires in electric vehicles burn hotter, faster and require much more water to extinguish?

(2) Can you please provide specific details on fire-risk management aboard the Spirit?

(3a) Will the new Spirit vessels be equipped with adequate firefighting measures, particularly with regard to electric vehicles?

(3b) What firefighting measures specifically will be equipped on these vessels?


Mr President, I thank the member for Launceston for her question.

Ms Armitage - Even more interesting, Paris has just taken their buses offline because they have been catching on fire.

Ms PALMER - It is a most interesting question.

(1) Yes, both Spirit of Tasmania vessels are equipped with a firefighting water deluge system on all vehicle decks, capable of being run continuously. The ships are designed to shed water from the vehicle decks where electric vehicles can be stowed, thus ensuring the ships remain stable and upright and are not affected by accumulation of water on a sealed deck whilst dealing with a fire.

(2) Both vessels have a classification society approved fire plan on board. This plan has also been endorsed by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA). The vessels' plans are regularly audited. Fire detection systems are tested weekly, and firefighting systems are tested in accordance with AMSA requirements.

Additionally, these systems are checked by an approved and licensed third party. The vessels' crews conduct regular drills in accordance with flag state requirements and also undertake firefighting training provided by the Australian Maritime College.

(3a) Yes, the TT-Line's new vessels will also shed water through freeing ports so continuous firefighting operations can be conducted without introducing free surface effect instability associated with water accumulation on a sealed deck, which could compromise stability.

The new vessels will be fitted with extensive fire detection systems monitoring both heat and smoke throughout all of the vehicle decks. Early detection of any fire is a key factor.

A fixed drenching system is fitted in all vehicle decks. Additionally, fire hydrants are fitted throughout the vehicle decks. These systems meet the statutory requirements which are required by international conventions and national authorities.

(3b) Regarding water drenching systems and fire hydrants, special attention has been paid to areas where charging systems are fitted. The drencher system near the charger systems has been given special attention, with drencher nozzles being placed in close proximity to the charging outlets.

Ms ARMITAGE - Mr President, my understanding is that the electric vehicles that have been catching on fire have not been charging at the time. It has simply been their batteries.

I accept that they meet Australian standards or international standards, but are they specifically to electric vehicles? I understand your point that foam and water are there on different decks but my understanding is that electric vehicles may require more firefighting equipment than with other vehicles.

I will put some supplementary questions about fire risk management on the notice paper, Mr President.


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