Marine Safety

What Are Marine PyroTechnics?


Pyrotechnics is the science of using materials capable of undergoing self-contained and self-sustained exothermic chemical reactions for the production of heat, light, gas, smoke and/or sound.

Used under extreme emergency situations (such as distress), these are provided onboard ships to grab the attention/inform ships within range so as to seek help and assistance of the vessels for rescue. Basically, it is a visual method of sending SOS signals.

How many types of pyrotechnics are onboard and what are the carrying requirements for pyrotechnics?

Rocket parachute: 12pieces on bridge and 4 pieces in each lifeboat and liferaft

Hand Flare: 6 pieces for each lifeboat and life raft

Smoke signal:  2  pieces for each lifeboat and liferaft

 Different Types PyroTechnics Available Onboard Ships?

  • Hand flare

A hand flare is a small cylindrical stick which when activated, produces an intense red smoke or light without an explosion. Should be held out leeward when activated. Can be used by the day as well as night.

  • Rocket parachute flare

As the name suggests, the equipment is designed to fire a single red star to a height of approximately 300m; this flare, launched at the minimum height of 300m in the air, self-activates to produce intense red smoke. A parachute opens up and reduces the rate of descent which gives more time to the flare to remain at a height and to provide a clear view to nearby ships or help.

  • Buoyant smoke signals

This pyro tech equipment is held in a compact container with a buoyant nature so that it can float on the water surface to signal distress situation. Mostly for use by the day, this can indicate the position of distress with the bright orange smoke  as well as for determining the wind direction for rescue

  • Line Throwing Appliances

A line throwing appliance is not a distress signaling equipment but is counteracting equipment in distress situations. It is used so that a connection is made in terms of a strong line between the distressed ship and the safe ship (to create a bridge)  to pass on towing lines or another kind of help.

Disposal of Pyrotechnics

Marine distress signals have a shelf life of 3 years and need to be replaced immediately after the date of expiry. The disposal of pyrotechnics is necessary to avoid misuse by fraudulent tampering of the expiry date and for safety and environmental considerations.

Out-of-date pyrotechnics have to be taken to authorized disposal centers once the ship lands ashore at the soonest possible instance post the expiry date. Given that the lives of seafarers depend on pyrotechnics, they need to be regularly checked for validity and replaced as necessary.