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Posted: August 14, 2018

A note regarding U.S. Coast Guard standards for fire extinguishers onboard a vessel


The U.S. Guard published a rulemaking two years ago regarding requirements for fire protection, detection and extinguishing equipment. The rulemaking took effect in August 2016. Among the topics addressed and changed by the rulemaking were the requirements for fire extinguishers onboard a vessel. Among those changes was a move away from the Coast Guard's weight-based classification system and an adoption of the UL (formerly Underwriters Laboratories) fire performance classification system.

In a recent message, a member of American Maritime Officers noted mariners may not all be aware of this change, and in an effort to prevent mariners and company personnel from wasting time in seeking replacement fire extinguishers with the old U.S. Coast Guard classification/approval, shared an article published by the American Boat and Yacht Council summarizing the issue. The article he shared is available online.

The U.S. Coast Guard rulemaking is also available online. An excerpt from the rulemaking regarding fire extinguishers is below.

Fire extinguishers: Replaces the Coast Guard's weight-based rating system for fire extinguishers with the UL performance-based rating system. Adopting the national industry standard rating system streamlines the selection, inspection, and approval processes for marine fire extinguishers.

Revises inspection, maintenance and testing requirements for fire extinguishers by adopting National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 10 "Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers" (2010 Edition). NFPA 10 distinguishes between monthly inspections (a visual check) and annual maintenance (a thorough inspection of materials and components, and associated repairs). Vessel crewmembers can continue to perform monthly inspections; however, a certified person is required to conduct annual maintenance.

This change aligns Coast Guard regulations with the current industry practice of having annual maintenance performed by certified persons as defined in NFPA 10.

Codifies the use of UL standards for testing and labeling of fire extinguishers. These standards provide detailed, technical requirements for construction, performance, testing, packaging, and marking of the specific type of extinguisher.

This change aligns Coast Guard regulations with current industry practice.

Reduces the number of spare portable fire extinguishers required on vessels traveling domestic routes. This change is implemented due to the enhanced maintenance requirements that result in more reliable spares, as well as making new spares easier to obtain.