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Firefighting Foams And Their Role In The Marine Habitat


Firefighting foam is a foam that’s used for effective fire suppression. As we all know, water is generally used to combat most firefighting situations. However, when it comes to burning liquids like crude oil or heavy fuel oil, any water applied to it will begin to boil, resulting in the water expanding into steam causing the burning fuel to overflow from containment and the fire to spread. That is why firefighting foam is the solution in times of such hazards. Its role is to cool the fire, coat the fuel to prevent its contact with oxygen and thus suppressing overall combustion.

Foam is the chief fire-extinguishing agent for all the major potential hazards or wherever flammable liquids are transported, processed, stored or used as an energy source.


Foam concentrate is based on hydrocarbon surfactants. They have different compositions and are classified into different types as follows

  • Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF)
  • Alcohol Resistant Film Forming Foam (AR-FFF)
  • Fluorine-Free Foams
  • Class “A” Foam Concentrate
  • Wetting Agent
  • Protein Foam
  • Fluoroprotein
  • Film Forming Fluoroprotein (FFFP)
  • Alcohol-Resistant Film Forming Fluoroprotein (AR-FFFP)



a) Aqueous Film Forming Foam: AFFF is an efficient foam used for fighting high-hazard flammable liquid fires involving oil, diesel, aviation fuels etc. AFFF is used on ships and shore facility fire suppression systems, firefighting vehicles and at fire training facilities. This foam can be applied to the flammable liquid fire using aspirating or non-aspirating discharge devices. It is compatible with all dry chemical powders and can be used in powder/foam twin agent systems. AFFF has an unequalled speed in fire control.

b) Alcohol Resistant Film Forming Foam: The AR-AFFF foams are used for quick extinguishment of large-scale Class-B fires. These foams are required when fuels are water-miscible such as alcohol, acetone. AR-AFFF foams are required in high-risk facilities in the oil & gas industries and places like refineries, ship vessels, tank farms and pharmaceutical sites. This high-performance foam can be applied in direct and indirect application by using a wide range of firefighting equipment. It can either be used in low, high or medium expansion on the burning spill.

c) Fluorine-Free Foam: This eco-friendly firefighting foam is used for Class A & Class B fires. It offers a variety of solutions for extinguishing fires at major airports, fire brigades, marine oil & gas companies, chemical plants and foam applications and systems. It’s used worldwide and ensures the fire safety of the environment and human health. It is applied with a gentle and force application method and can be used in the low, medium and high expansion. The application is extensive since it’s biodegradable and does not cause toxic effects, minimizing the effects on human health.

Class A Foam Concentrate:

This foam is particularly designed to extinguish fires caused by Class A combustible materials like paper, rubber, brush, charred wood, tires, coal, plastic and structure fires. This foam solution, though designed for Class A fires, is also applicable to certain Class B flammable liquid fires in emergency situations. This can be done by portable medium/high expansion devices.
Class A foam concentrate can be used with aspirating and non-aspirating discharge, compressed Air Foam Systems or when dropped from a rotary wing aircraft. The applicable suppression mechanisms and foam solution properties vary with the kind of foam delivery device used.

a) Wetting Agents: These agents are quite effective in setting out fires in forests, wildlands and peat-bogs. Wetting Agents have foaming characteristics and when mixed with water and air, produces a foam that retains the wetting. This helps smother both Class A & Class B combustibles.

b) Protein foam: The protein foam is highly effective in suppressing fires in a wider range of industries and related applications. This foam is typically used for onboard marine systems, refineries, storage facilities, transfer stations

c) Fluoro protein: This foam is used for suppression on Class B hydrocarbon fuel fires such as gasoline and benzene. Fluoroprotein Foam with Alcohol Resistance (FPAR) can be applied for fighting Class B polar solvent fuel fires like ketones and alcohols. This solution is very well suited for fire suppression in fixed, semi-fixed and emergency response applications. Fluoro Protein is essentially used to put-off fires on oil & gas tank farms, refineries, transfer stations, onboard marine systems and storage facilities.

d) Film-forming fluoro protein: Whenever there is a high-risk situation involved The FFFP is the most ideal fuel solution. This fuel is applied when hydrocarbons like crude oil, gasoline, diesel fuel, aviation kerosene are being stored somewhere, transported or processed. It is used at major military bases and international airports where quick extinguishment and postfire security where restricted quantities of foam concentrate are required.

e) Alcohol-resistant film-forming fluoro protein: The ARFF-P foam is well-suited for extinguishing polar solvent liquid fires and flammable hydrocarbons. It provides great post-fire security almost as equal to a top-quality synthetic ARFF-P.


Ships and other maritime vessels carry large quantities of fuel and other combustible materials. With limited firefighting equipment, it can result in a catastrophic event.
The fires at sea pose a heightened risk to ship owners, carriers, cargo insurers and life and property on the whole. Fire especially poses a risk to container ships since the cargo is mostly transferred to containers before the ship owners receive it.
Quite often, highly-flammable substances like Calcium Hypochlorite used in swimming pools or to treat drinking water are carried on the ship against stringent guidelines. Dishonest shippers declare it as a more stable compound to avoid paying high freights thus raising the risk of on-board container ships' fire.
In a ship, the engine room is the most conducive area for a fire to erupt. There’s machinery functioning at super high temperatures with ample fuel running through pipes, in turn generating tons of exhaust. A small fuel leak on a hot surface will ignite ablaze.
Sometimes a fire can be caused by human error (cigarettes, failure to turn off galley stoves or cargo lights) or a sudden electrical glitch.
While on yet another occasion, oil rags used to clean and preserve machinery are soaked in lubricants and oils that are highly inflammable and can self-ignite at heightened temperatures.


Low Expansion Foam Concentratesare regulated by MSC.1/Circ.1312. The concentrates should be subjected in Periodical controls and testing of their quality. The first periodical control of foam concentrates should be performed not more than 3 years after being supplied to the ship, and after that, every year.

High Expansion Foam Concentratesare regulated by MSC.1/Circ.670. The concentrates should be subjected to Periodical controls and testing of their quality.The first periodical control of foam concentrates stored onboard should be performed aftera period of 3 years and, after that, every year.A record of theage of the foam concentrates and of subsequent controls should be kept onboard.


The concentration and quality of the firefighting foam are crucial to its performance on the ship. Testing ensures the complete safety of seafarers and the marine community.
The major reasons for testing of FFFOAM is imperative is because:

  • It assures the lack of adulteration and contamination
  • Complies with international regulatory standards
  • Maintains foam quality and concentration
  • Promises safety and security of the seafarers and the shipping community

Testing the firefighting foam is critical to ensure that the foam’s concentration and quality are fit for performance. IMO requires the foam concentrates to be tested 3 years after supply and every year thereafter. Firefighting foam stored under harsh conditions, as in shipping, are subject to contamination, degradation, or even dilution. Therefore ensuring the quality and standard of FFFOAM is extremely important.


  • The procedure is quite simple and is followed by adhering to the respective rules which are accepted internationally.
  • A one to two-litre sample of foam concentrate in a clean polythene container is required. If new unused containers are unavailable, ensure the containers are washed properly beforehand.
  • Using a manual pump, pick up the concentrate about 20cm below the upper level and fill a 1L or 2L plastic container.
  • Alternatively draw samples from the top, middle and base. Use a hollow tube to take a sample from the middle. For the base sample use a side-exiting outlet pipe or alternatively run off of foam first to remove any accumulated sediment.
  • This run-off may be returned to the top of the tank. Several samples may be mixed equally to produce a single composite sample
  • The Low Expansion Foam Concentrates are regulated by MSC.1/Circ.1312 and High Expansion Foam Concentrates are regulated by MSC.1/Circ. 670.
  • These concentrates are subjected to Periodical controls and testing of their quality.
  • The first periodical control of foam concentrates should be performed not more than 3 years after being supplied to the ship.
  • This process is repeated every year after that.


Foam concentrate quality is crucial to ensure efficient firefighting operations. Further foam sample analysis and foam testing are periodically required.
We at Atlas lab pride ourselves in being a dependable test house for Foam testing and various other internationally recognised tests. Given below are a list of our tests:

  • Appearance, visual
  • pH, ASTM D1293, EN 1568
  • Density, ASTM D4052
  • Viscosity ISO 3104, sediment EN 1568-C
  • Drainage time, EN 1568-G
  • Expansion ratio, EN 1568-G
  • Fire test performance, "burn back test", EN 1568-I
  • Refractive index, ISO 5561
  • Refractive index, ASTM D1218, ISO 5661
  • Resistance to polar solvents
  • Solution concentration
  • Pour Point ASTM D5950
  • Cloud point ASTM D5773
  • Freeze-point
  • Surface tension, ISO 304, ASTM D-971
  • Temperature conditioning, EN 1568-H

For any further technical or commercial inquiry one can contact us on our website: www.atlaslab.in
Or on our email: contact@atlaslab.in
Or call on : +91 93214 24026
Or WhatsApp on :+91 93214 24026

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