Meet the world’s most powerful firefighting vessel

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Disaster has struck along Singapore’s busy shipping lanes. A giant tanker is on fire, the flames threatening to engulf its trapped crew onboard. As the blaze expands by the second and choking black smoke billows from the stern, the situation grows increasingly desperate.  

Thankfully, help is on the way. Hurtling towards the stricken ship is the Red Sailfish – a 50-metre long, 581-ton Heavy Fire Vessel (HFV) touted as the world’s most powerful firefighting vessel. 

The roaring flames are indeed no match for the immense torrents of water and foam spouting from one of the Singapore Civil Defence Force’s (SCDF) best fireboats. Within minutes, the raging inferno is reduced to smouldering embers. 

Designed and developed by ST Engineering, the red and white HFV boasts firefighting precision and power. Like how James Bond’s iconic Aston Martin is souped up with ingenious gadgets, the HFV is kitted out with a versatile arsenal of tools that would make Inspector Gadget proud. 

As expressed by COL Ryan Ong, Commander, SCDF, “The Heavy Fire Vessel (HFV), being the largest and most powerful firefighting vessel of the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) Marine Division, would greatly help to bolster our capabilities in keeping Singapore waters safe.”

We take a closer look at this sophisticated ship and the extensive weaponry within its hull to fight fire with power. 


The HFV is a firefighting machine armed with 12 water and foam monitors – the cannon-like structures mounted all over the ship – offering 360-degree coverage. 

These big guns can spray water up to a distance of 180 metres to 200 metres, drawing their ammunition from the sea with the help of four formidable pumps. In the event of a near-shore operation, the HFV can also serve as the ultimate fire hydrant by pumping water from the sea to fight the fire on land. 

This impressive aqua ability is why HFV is the world’s first firefighting vessel to be classed to Fi-Fi III by the American Bureau of Shipping, the global leading maritime classification organisation. To qualify for this classification, a firefighting vessel must be able to produce a total water capacity of 9,600m3/h.

The HFV more than delivers on this count with a capacity of 14,400m3/hour.

To provide some perspective, this means its 12 monitors can eject a jaw-dropping 240,000 litres of water in a single minute – a rate equivalent to filling up an Olympic-size swimming pool in about ten and a half minutes. 


From bow to stern, every inch of the HFV is built for speed – imperative for a vessel required to mount rapid emergency responses. At full throttle, it can hit 20 knots, or 37km/h.

Technology was critical in the creation of this hydrodynamic ship. Computational fluid dynamics – a high-tech method that simulates how the flow of fluids affects objects – was harnessed to optimise its hull and appendages for speed through a series of simulations. 

For instance, the rudder is placed precisely at the best spot on the ship to provide maximum propulsion. The HFV’s hull is also designed to minimise resistance so that it can slice through the waters in a flash. Less drag also means better fuel efficiency and manoeuvrability, resulting in a fast and nimble vessel.


The HFV is also the first firefighting vessel to be equipped with the Dynamic Positioning Error Force Modelling system. 

As powerful water pumps can sometimes cause these vessels to drift out of position while in operation, crew members typically have to manually control the steering – a tedious process that also bumps up the risk of human error. 

But the HFV’s dynamic positioning system enables the vessel to automatically correct its orientation, eliminating the need for manual monitoring. This allows the crew to focus fully on the critical mission at hand and sharpen the accuracy of the ship’s water and foam monitors.


A vessel of many talents, the HFV is also equipped to handle chemical, biological and radiation (CBR) threats with a CBR protection and detection system. 

For instance, if there are poisonous fumes in the air, the ship’s protection system will automatically activate and seal off all ventilation points. The contaminated air will then be circulated through a filtration system to remove any hazardous material, supplying the people onboard with clean air for up to 24 hours

The ship also has thermal imaging capabilities that can aid rescuers in swiftly locating victims. If a quick rescue operation is necessary, the HFV can launch a rigid-hulled inflatable boat that is attached to the back of the ship. This boat comes with a personnel rescue room that can accommodate up to 30 evacuees.  

With its cutting-edge ability and versatility, HFV makes pulling off any critical maritime mission plain sailing.

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