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HANSA 02-2020

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Schifffahrt | Shipping

Schifffahrt | Shipping Fire protection high on the agenda Despite progressive development in ship technology, fires on board vessels repeatedly cause damages. Numerous initiatives and experts demand and promote counter measures GARD Insurance group Gard organized a conference with different industry stakeholders, authorities and experts to address the growing concern with devastating fires aboard container ships in late 2019. Efforts to stem the mis-declaration of dangerous cargo are essential and encouraged but that is only one facet of the solution, Gard said, adding that there is a profound need to bring fire detection and fire-fighting on-board ships higher up on the safety agenda of regulators and the industry at large. According to Gard on average there has been a fire onboard a ship weekly during the first half of 2019, not including »near misses«. The increasing volumes carried on-board ever larger ships increase the odds of having on board the single container with dangerous goods that may ignite, combust or explode. And, once a fire is started, the damage potential and fire-fighting challenges are much greater. Gard gathered representatives from carriers, ship owners, charterers, insurers, flag states, fire experts, salvors and industry organizations. There was broad consensus that the root cause of the fires is hazardous cargo: 10-12% of containerized cargo falls into the category of hazardous- or »regulated cargoes«. Shippers’ mis-declaration of such cargo was described as »probably the single biggest problem« which needs to be tackled. However, in Gard’s view, the problem is wider than that – many container ship fires were said to have arisen out of other causes such as error in packing and securing of cargo as well as various manufacturing defects: »In our experience, several container ship fires have been caused by self-heating, combustion or explosion of dangerous cargoes that have been properly declared and properly packed. The combustible nature of the cargo is an important risk factor in and by itself«. Root causes originating from the supply chain and trade mechanisms need to be addressed. Studies conducted both in Europe and the US that have focused on accuracy of information concerning shipments of dangerous goods in containers reveal alarming statistics. The risk is endemic and real despite efforts by liner operators to improve their routines. 28 HANSA International Maritime Journal 02 | 2020

Schifffahrt | Shipping CONTAINER SHIP SAFETY FORUM In December, the Container Ship Safety Forum (CSSF) – representing 40% of the TEU capacity of the global container ship fleet – focused on firefighting and safe access to cargo areas on container vessels at its meeting in Copenhagen. Delegates discussed how to build capacity for safety and shared their experiences to enable industry wide learning. Several members have spent the last months on identifying improvement opportunities for firefighting on board their ships. One member used its recent learnings from a cargo fire to manufacture »quick and easy to use fire nozzle holders« and presented same to the forum following the idea: hands freed from boundary cooling can be used on board for other firefighting measures. Different equipment has been tested by several member companies, results were shared, and an innovative solution shown during an offsite demonstration, it was announced by the CSSF. Another member presented an elaborately produced training video asking for comments and suggestions. The insightful final version will be made available to all CSSF members. There was consensus on the importance of onboard emergency preparedness training and drills. Depending on the vessel type, different risks exist when accessing the cargo area. Unsafe catwalks, lashing bridges, handrails, and ladders but also inappropriate PPE and unsafe operations repeatedly cause personal accidents that also involve external parties. CSSF members aim to continuously improve these areas and to engage with other industry bodies on the subject – e.g. terminal operators or organizations representing them in safety questions. To further discourage rogue shipments, authorities could do more to prosecute offenders, attendees agreed. The IMO urges governments to implement inspection programs, »yet few seem to have acted on this so far«, Gard states, adding that it is »questionable« whether any such programs would extend to cargo not seemingly dangerous as per the declarations. In an ideal world a shipper’s mis-declared cargo would not get through the container line’s booking checks. However, even if one container line’s diligent dangerous goods booking team rejects a booking, it remains open to the shipper of that cargo to try another container line. Given all these supply chain challenges and the volume of shipments, the reality today is that unsafe shipments will slip through even the tightest prevention net. »It therefore becomes necessary for shipping companies to further enhance focus on what they can control – the ship and crew«, the experts said. The larger ships may have container stacks up to 30 m high, so many containers will be out of reach to crew with fire hoses. The current SOLAS requirements are largely the same as for other cargo vessels, with some minor additional requirements for container vessels constructed after 1 January 2016. The fire safety objectives of SOLAS are to prevent fires and explosions as well as contain fires in compartment of origin. It was emphasized that these objectives are not met onboard the ships of today. There would be no viable solution to address the risk without revised IMO regulations (SOLAS). However, classification societies also stressed that not many ship operators had taken up more comprehensive measures contained in additional Class Notations. HANSA International Maritime Journal 02 | 2020 29

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