How a Fully Autonomous System Can Improve Fire Safety on Ro-Ro Ship Weather Decks


An EU-funded initiative has developed a robotic solution for fire detection and suppression to protect open weather decks on roll-on/roll-off (ro-ro) ships.

The fires on ro-ro ships that carry wheeled cargo like lorries and cars have been in the spotlight in recent years. The 2019 Annual Report of The Nordic Association of Marine Insurers points to the high fire frequency in the car/ro-ro category. More than 1 % of vessels in this segment experience a fire every year, according to the Nordic Marine Insurance Statistics database. Addressing the need to improve fire protection, the EU-funded LASH FIRE project focuses on developing and demonstrating operational and design solutions for all types of ro-ro ships. Unifire AB, one of the project partners, has developed and tested an autonomous firefighting robotic nozzle that can hit fire targets without human intervention. The tests, which were conducted in Sweden in June 2020, were aimed at examining “the feasibility of a fully autonomous fire detection and suppression system to protect cargo on open weather decks on RoRo ships,” according to a news release on the LASH FIRE project website.

Supressing fire

A YouTube video shows how “the system dynamically detects, follows, and suppresses fires in real time. It automatically turns the water on when fire is detected, and shuts the water off when it has been extinguished.” As can be seen in the video, Unifire AB’s FlameRanger™ autonomous firefighting robot detects and suppresses four fires in quick succession. The system consists of sensors linked to nozzles on robotic arms and includes thermal imaging, video analytics and flame detection technologies. FlameRanger™ can be loaded with water or foam, and a human operator can take over control at any time using a joystick, phone, tablet or PC via a wifi or other internet connection, as explained on the Unifire AB website. The LASH FIRE (Legislative Assessment for Safety Hazards of Fire and Innovations in Ro-ro ship Environment) project will run until August 2023. It aims to develop fire safety solutions targeted at ro-ro ships, taking into account risk and cost reduction to provide a basis for the revision of international maritime regulations. The project consortium includes 26 partners from 13 EU countries, bringing together industry partners, research institutes, universities, regulatory bodies, trade associations, and experts in communication and external relations. Project partners believe that LASH FIRE will significantly reduce the occurrence of fires on ROPAX ships – ro-ro vessels for freight transport with passenger accommodation – general ro-ro cargo ships and pure car/truck carriers. LASH FIRE solutions will increase the number of fires detected and controlled at an early stage and improve the independent fire management capabilities on board. LASH FIRE partners also suggest that systems like the FlameRanger™ could possibly prevent catastrophic events like the USS Bonhomme Richard aircraft carrier fire that broke out in June 2020, as noted on the Unifire AB website. The blaze led to several injuries and caused extensive damage. For more information, please see: LASH FIRE project website


LASH FIRE, roll-on/roll-off ships, ro-ro, fire, cargo, Unifire, FlameRanger

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