Firefighting on the High Seas
16 Jul 2018

Named 'Red Sailfish', the Singapore Civil Defence Force's (SCDF) new Heavy Fire Vessel (HFV) was launched on 26 June 2018, marking a significant milestone in the programme managed by DSTA. Apart from delivering a 360-degree firefighting coverage, the HFV is also equipped with chemical, biological and radiological (CBR) capabilities.

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SCDF Commissioner Eric Yap officiated the HFV launch ceremony, alongside Assistant Commissioner (AC) Derek Tan, Commander of the SCDF Marine Command. In his address, AC Tan lauded the vessel's capabilities, which include an unparalleled pump capacity of 240,000 litres per minute, making it the most powerful firefighting vessel in the world to date. It is also the first purpose-built firefighting vessel globally to be integrated with a dynamic positioning system, thus reducing crew workload in maintaining vessel position and heading during firefighting operations. On that note, AC Tan thanked the agencies involved – DSTA, ST Engineering and Penguin International Limited – for making the first SCDF vessel designed and developed locally, a reality.

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One of the multi-disciplinary DSTA team's key contributions to the HFV is the design of the vessel's unique CBR protection system, which allows the SCDF to conduct mitigation, monitoring and rescue operations in marine HazMat incidents. To protect the crew from the contaminated external environment, the vessel's boundaries are protected by airlocks and gas tight doors; military grade filters are also installed to cleanse the air channelled into the accommodation areas. The protected area is pressurised to mitigate the accidental entry of contaminants and sensors are provided to monitor the environmental condition around the vessel.

The team also managed to integrate the complex external firefighting system and rescue equipment onto the 50m HFV. This was achieved via the utilisation of 3D modelling tools to plan and optimise space allocation for the complex network of large diameter pipes (up to 600mm in diameter) required for the external firefighting system, and de-conflict the space required with other infrastructure such as cables and air conditioning ducts.

Innovation was central in the HFV's design. For example, to meet the requirement for Internet connection on board to access the SCDF's command and control (C2) systems, the initial idea was to simply install satellite communications as it was a common solution in the shipping and marine industry. After a comprehensive review of the SCDF's operations and understanding that its area of operations was limited to Singapore's territorial waters, the team proposed leveraging the mobile cellular 3G/4G network instead. In view of the fact that SCDF had procured a 4G booster and video streaming system used for sending video footage from the vessel's electro-optics system, the team conducted a technical assessment and recommended installing another SIM card in the backup card slot to provide internet connectivity for the C2 system, thus achieving cost savings.

While most of the team members were familiar with the SAF’s requirements and organisational culture, working with the SCDF was a novel yet fulfilling experience. Programme Manager (Naval Systems) Martin Sulaiman Wibawa shared: “The SCDF’s considerations and concept of operations were vastly different from the RSN. As such, we took great effort to communicate, listen and understand their requirements. Our frequent interactions and open communications helped us to deliver a vessel that suited the SCDF well.”

The HFV is just one of three vessels to be delivered to the SCDF, with the other two being the Heavy Rescue Vessel – which can evacuate up to 300 casualties – and the Marine Rescue Vessel, a versatile support vessel. While the three are of different shapes and sizes, the team harmonised the design requirements and strove towards a common user interface for the systems on board. Doing so reduced the SCDF's training load and improved interoperability, which is crucial given their operational model where each rotation of staff could be deployed to any of the vessels when the need arises.

Reflecting on the HFV’s launch, Senior Engineer (Naval Systems) Tay Tianyu said: “I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work on this project as it has a direct impact on saving lives. Witnessing its launch today was meaningful and satisfying as it capped off a major milestone after months of hard work.”

The HFV is expected to be delivered to the SCDF in 2019.

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