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Fire extinguishers for boats

Planning on taking to the water this year? Make sure your extinguishers are in check, first!

The Boat Safety Scheme

You’ve probably heard of the Boat Safety Scheme (BSS).  To gain a navigation licence, boat owners must adhere to safety standards laid out by the BSS. Then, every four years, your boats is inspected. Part of the standards relate to the fire extinguishers you have on board. Use the table below to calculate how many, and which class you’ll need.
Size of boat Minimum number of extinguishers Minimum fire rating of each extinguisher Minimum combined fire rating of each extinguisher
Up to 7m (23ft)


5A  34B

10A  68B

7m – 11m (23-36ft)


5A  34B

13A  89B

Over 11m (36ft)


5A  34B

21A  144B

  If your boat doesn’t have any cooking, heating, refrigerating or lighting appliances, you can reduce the number of extinguishers you need by one.

Positioning your fire extinguishers

Fire extinguishers must be located within easy reach of the relevant risk area, such as the engine space and the galley.

Quality of fire extinguishers

The Boat safety scheme states that all onboard fire extinguishers must have at least one of the following marks:
  • the BSI Kitemark
  • the British Approvals of Fire Equipment (BAFE) symbol
  • the Société Générale de Surveillance (SGS) symbol
  • the AFNOR ‘NF’ shield
  • the Loss Prevention Certification Board (LPCB)
  • other accredited certifying body’s mark to EN3
  • the APRAGAZ certification mark (only when accompanied by the underlying ‘B’ denoting the BELAC accreditation)
To ensure high quality post purchase, all fire extinguishers must also be well maintained. You will probably notice that your extinguishers do not have to bear the Marine Equipment Directive mark, contrary to common belief. Boat Fire Extinguisher

Engine fire extinguishers

The BSS recommends that fire extinguishers used to protect the engine space are capable of being used without fully opening the primary access/engine hatch. This is very sound advice. In fact, it’s a good idea to invest in automatic fire extinguishers for your boat’s engine compartment. They will automatically start discharging as soon as the operating temperature is reached, without requiring any manual operation. For more advice, visit the BSS website: photo credit: Yamaha WaterCraft via photopin cc

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