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Pyrotechnics in the Marine Industry: Essential Information and Facts

Pyrotechnics in the Marine Industry: Essential Information and Facts

In the maritime industry, safety is of the utmost importance, especially in emergency situations. This is where pyrotechnics come into play. In this concise yet all-encompassing piece, we shall be providing answers to the most critical queries about marine pyrotechnics in clear and simple terms.

So batten down the hatches and enjoy the voyage!

What are pyrotechnics?

Pyrotechnics are substances that can initiate self-contained and self-sustained exothermic chemical reactions, causing the production of heat, light, gas, smoke, and/or sound. On board ships, pyrotechnics are a critical aspect of the life-saving equipment that helps guarantee the safety of crew members and passengers during emergency situations at sea.

Multiple types of pyrotechnics are available and can produce visual and auditory signals to nearby ships, alerting them to the presence of a vessel in danger. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) regulates their use to guarantee safety and efficacy, while Annex 4 of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREG) highlights the importance of pyrotechnics.

What are pyrotechnics used for?

Pyrotechnics can be employed in the following scenarios: 

Distress Signals:

During an emergency such as a fire or abandonment of ship, pyrotechnics are used as distress signals to alert other ships or rescue teams.
Emergency evacuation:
Pyrotechnics can also aid in emergency evacuation procedures, like the launching of lifeboats or life rafts. Hand-held flares and buoyant smoke signals are utilized to alert rescuers and guide them to the location of the vessel in distress.

Navigation Aids: 

Navigation can also be an important part of the use cases for pyrotechnics, especially in situations with limited visibility. Flares and other pyrotechnic devices can be used by ships to signal their position and course to other ships, thus helping to avoid collisions and ensure safe navigation.

Maintaining pyrotechnic devices regularly, storing them correctly, and ensuring easy access during emergencies are crucial.

All crew members must receive adequate training on the proper use of pyrotechnics and participate in regular drills to hone their skills.


An interesting case!

The use of pyrotechnics played a vital role in the rescue of the crew of the MV Tricolour in 2002 and in the evacuation of the passengers of the MV Alta in 2018. In both cases, the use of pyrotechnic devices helped rescuers and guide them to the location of the ship in distress. All passengers and crew members were successfully evacuated.

How many pyrotechnics are in a ship?

The number of pyrotechnics on a ship depends on its size and type and is regulated by the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS).

Pyrotechnics are found in various parts of a ship. 

The minimum requirement on the bridge is:

  • six hand flares,
  • twelve rocket parachute flares,
  • two buoyant smoke signals (one on each side, port and starboard),
  • at least one line-throwing appliance. 

Each lifeboat must carry: 

  • six hand flares,
  • four rocket parachute flares,
  • two buoyant smoke signals. 

The usage instructions for each pyrotechnic device are displayed on its cover.

Learn more about the characteristics of each pyrotechnics and buy it on our website in the Pyrotechnics section.