By Joffrey Godin International sales director Interfloor
PRODUCTS of all types must fulfil certain fire protection requirements in order to be used in public facilities and there are rigorous standards for materials used on ships and offshore installations.
Safety is paramount at sea and in the event of a fire, there’s a high degree of danger in all areas but particularly those with heavy pedestrian traffic, such as in foyers, waiting areas and restaurants. It’s for these reasons special safety precautions are necessary. The focus of these measures is the prevention and containment of a fire.
Floorcoverings in high traffic areas, as well as in cabins, must perform well when tested for fire resistance but they must also look good. The right type of underlay will ensure they look as good as possible for as long as possible, as well as perform well.
Working together, floorcoverings and the right underlay can help minimise fire risks, reduce noise, add warmth and ensure a comfortable and quality finish that’ll look better for longer.
What’s the IMO standard?
Specifiers and shipowners must ensure that all products used onboard are fully tested and have the appropriate certifications. Manufacturers wishing to supply floorcovering products to the marine and offshore industry must comply with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Fire Test Procedures (FTP) Code for flammability (Part 5) and smoke/toxicity (Part 2).
These state ‘materials must not be capable of producing excessive quantities of smoke and toxic products or not to give rise to toxic hazards at elevated temperatures’.
The IMO is a United Nations agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships. Materials must pass the IMO’s surface flammability, smoke and toxicity requirements for floorcoverings to be deemed suitable for installations offshore and on seafaring vessels travelling in international waters.
Materials which pass the IMO FTP tests must also meet the requirements of the Maritime Equipment Directive (MED) before they can be affixed with the ‘Wheel Mark’ of compliance.
Manufacturer should have two levels of MED approval – Schedule B (product related) and either Schedule F (batch related) or Schedules D or E (process related).
The product supplier must also provide a Declaration of Conformity to be kept on-board for inspection.
How IMO underlays perform
Some IMO underlays achieve a high degree of flame retardancy thanks to the inclusion of Aluminium Trihydrate (ATH), an endothermic compound which can absorb high quantities of heat when acted upon by fire.
ATH’s ability to break down under heat to form water gives the underlay a self-extinguishing property. The other is to use chemicals which absorb heat (these are called endothermic compounds) and reduce the temperature of the fire.
As well as helping to ensure the safety requirements of a ship and its passengers, quality IMO underlays can enhance the comfort and durability of the floorcovering.
In high-traffic areas, IMO underlays can protect and prolong the life of the flooring.
In private rooms and suites, IMO underlays can give a feeling of luxury and warmth and enhance the comfort of the passengers.
IMO underlays can also improve sound quality onboard – one of the main issues for specifiers and ship owners – and provide additional interior richness by reducing the level of structural and airborne noise to acceptable standards. This is particularly important in cabins, where passengers and crew want to be able to relax in relative peace.
Types of IMO underlay
Floorcovering designs on cruise ships often incorporate patterns and texture, so the underlay systems need robust performance standards to ensure dimensional stability, appearance retention and increased life of the carpet.
IMO underlays also need to be quick and easy to install for interiors refurbishments, and suitable for use with both stretch-fit and double-stick application methods to ensure a quality finish.
Lightweight options are preferred to minimise fuel costs and so many IMO underlays are made from Polyurethane (PU) or Latex foam in a variety of thicknesses suitable for different areas. For example, spaces with high foot traffic will require a more robust and higher density underlay while rooms where comfort is more of a priority such as cabins may be more suited to a lower density underlay.
As a significant contributor to the style of a cruise ship’s interior, floorcoverings can leave a lasting impression for passengers and ensure superior levels of comfort for everyone onboard.
IMO underlays optimise the life and appearance of carpets in various very demanding hospitality environments such as cruise-ships where the very highest safety standards are also a principal factor.