Fire on board a ship can be catastrophic and so it is absolutely necessary to ensure the fire retardancy of the fittings and fixtures that make their way on to it.

The issue lies, however, when each country has its own set of safety standards to which they build their own boats. This means that at any one time a port could theoretically house dozens of ships all meeting different safety standards, with varying degrees of leniency within them, which jeopardises the safety of those working aboard and nearby.

Fortunately, this isn’t the case thanks to a worthy set of international standards that dictate nearly every aspect of a ship’s construction and operation, including the blind fabric used to shade the windows.  

Keeping those safe at sea and ensuring a global language of safety is spoken, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) have a set of requirements for fire protection, detection and extinction, among many others. All these requirements are tested and approved by a designated body in each country from which the ship is from, known as flag states.

In this instance, a flag state must ensure that any materials used in their ship meets IMO fire protection requirements, with the aim of the IMO being to restrict the use of combustible materials.

‘All materials used on ships must be approved by each flag state as meeting IMO requirements to eliminate and limit the possibility of ignition,’ said an IMO spokesperson. ‘Under the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), all materials on a ship must be approved as meeting strict requirements to limit the possibility of fire spreading.’

The IMO maintains the SOLAS convention, which is a maritime treaty that requires flag states who sign up to it to ensure their ships meet minimum safety standards. This covers things such as construction, equipment and operation, and covers around 99% of merchant ships around the world.

The thought process behind this is to ensure there is one set of safety standards that covers all merchant ships at sea, wherever they are in the world. It came as a response to the sinking of the Titanic, with the early version of the treaty prescribing lifeboat numbers and continuous radio watches. Over the years the number of chapters in the treaty has grown and cover a wide base of safety measures, with signatory flag states now needing to meet at least three of the standards.

The standards for window blinds are found in Chapter 2 of the SOLAS convention, under Construction – Fire Protection, Fire detection and Fire Extinction. For us, as blind manufacturers, part 40.3 is of particular interest. It states that ‘draperies, curtains and other suspended textile materials have qualities of resistance to the propagation of flame not inferior to those of wool having a mass of 0.8 kg/m2, this being determined in accordance with the Fire Test Procedures Code.’

 This means that window blinds for ships need to be fire retardant to inhibit the spread of any fire. Our YewdaleDefiant® Dart, Roe, Thames and Eden fabrics are IMO accredited and will simply smoulder and self-extinguish once the flame has moved or is no longer in contact with the fabric.

By having safety standards such as this, the likelihood of a serious event involving fire decreases, which is only ever a positive thing. It maintains high levels of safety which many members of the public probably wouldn’t even be aware are in place, but offers peace of mind to specifiers and installers across the industry.

The test is rigorous and extensive, with a flame being held against the edge of the fabric for 15 seconds. If the flame reaches across to the other edge of the fabric or the hole burnt by the flame reaches an opposite edge then the fabric would fail. Likewise, the fabric cannot ‘flame up’ when presented with the flame and must extinguish itself once the flame is removed.

Get in touch with our team today to discuss how YewdaleDefiant® Dart, YewdaleDefiant® Roe, YewdaleDefiant® Thames and YewdaleDefiant® Eden can be used in your next maritime project.