Call for fire boats at marinas after blaze destroys Dh1m yacht

Civil Defence chief believes special vessels, equipped with pumps and hoses, can respond to a boat fire much more quickly than traditional road vehicles.

A boat burns in its berth near Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi. Some owners have criticised the lack of safety equipment.
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ABU DHABI // Fire-fighting boats might be introduced at Abu Dhabi's marinas following a blaze that started on one boat and spread, destroying a milion-dirham yacht. An electrical fault is believed to have been the cause of the fire, which broke out on a boat, named Italian Riva, two weeks ago at the Marina Mall marina.

Civil Defence personnel arrived at the scene 20 minutes after the blaze began and extinguished the flames. Following the incident, Major Gen Rashid al Matroushi, the director general of the UAE Civil Defence, said fire-fighting boats should be introduced at the capital's marinas. The special vessels, which are equipped with pumps and hoses, can respond to a boat fire much more quickly than traditional road vehicles. In addition, they can pull boats and yachts away from the marina to prevent flames from spreading.

"I will ask Abu Dhabi Civil Defence officials to pay visits to the marinas and ask them to add fire-fighting boats in order to minimise [the number] of such fires," said Maj Gen al Matroushi. He said marinas were required to have fire-fighting equipment for Civil Defence use, but marina operators were not obligated to use it in the event of a fire. However, marinas that fail to supply such equipment, including hoses and water pumps, face no penalties.

Salah Suliman, a security officer at the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club, which runs the Marina Mall facility, said staff attempted to control the Italian Riva fire before the Civil Defence personnel arrived. "We have fire extinguishers and fire-fighting equipment at the old jetty, which is on the other side of the marina, but we haven't moved them yet to the new jetty, where the fire was."

It is prohibited to barbecue or smoke sheesha on boats, but security officers are not allowed inside the vessels to determine if occupants are violating these rules. "Sometimes the owners take out the sheesha, so if we see it we tell them it is not allowed," Mr Suliman said. Ahmad al Kubaisi, the owner of the Italian Riva, said quicker intervention could have been minimized the damage caused by the conflagration."Thank God it was on a Saturday morning and there was no traffic, so the civil defence arrived before the fire damaged even more boats."

Mr al Kubaisi said he bought the 50-foot craft a year-and-a-half ago and had carried out major renovations on it. He added that he did not have an insurance policy on the boat. "If I buy a new one I will park it at the end of the dock, so if it burns it doesn't affect anyone else," he said. "The captain, who was on board, smelled smoke, so he turned off the electricity and went to check on the wires. He didn't find anything, so he went to inform the marina administration of the smoke, and while he was gone the fire erupted."

Fahad Taher, the owner of the boat that was destroyed by the spreading flames, said all marinas in Abu Dhabi lack fire safety equipment. "If you go to other countries, you'll see the fire safety measures they have. We should have one of those fire-fighting boats here," he said. "Technically, the yacht is at fault, because that's where the fire started, but in reality I blame the lack of fire-safety measures at the marina. They should pull out the burning yacht so the fire doesn't affect the rest; imagine if six or seven boats were affected," he said.

Mr Taher, reflecting on his loss, said: "I have a lot of memories on that boat - I used to take it out almost every day." He added that he has another yacht, which is now in Mussafah, that he will move to the Marina Mall facility in the near future. "There is no point of putting it in any other marina, because they are all the same in Abu Dhabi. And I'm a jet ski racer at Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club, so it is better to have it close to me."

According to yacht owners and security officers, the fire two weeks ago was the fire of its kind at the marina.