The container shipping sector needs to proactively design, operate and manage vessels to prevent further fires, cargo losses and navigation issues, using lessons learned from past accidents
These were the main themes experts debated during Riviera’s Container ship safety by design, not by accident webinar. This event, sponsored by Campbell Johnston Clark, was held on 10 February 2021 during Riviera’s Container Shipping Webinar Week.
Panellists in this webinar were Liberian Registry senior vice president for maritime operations Thomas Klenum, TT Club risk management director Peregrine Storrs Fox, Campbell Johnston Clark director Andrew Gray and DNV GL Container Ship Excellence Centre head Holger Jefferies.
Mr Gray summed up the issues the industry faces when he highlighted that more than 1,300 containers on average are lost overboard per year due to inadequate storage, lashings and ships sailing in adverse weather conditions. “Of the 260M containers transported annually, on average 1,382 were lost annually over the last 12 years,” said Mr Gray.
On top of this, container ships tackle at least one fire each week, whether this is in the engineroom, inside containers or elsewhere on ships. “Every 60 days there is a major incident,” said Mr Gray.
The principal causes include issues within the supply chain, “nondeclaration and misdeclaration of dangerous goods and inadequate fire-fighting systems” he explained.
These accidents can lead to huge financial losses, salvage projects and claims. There could be loss of life and injury, damage or loss of cargo, damage to hull and machinery, environmental damage and the need for a port of refuge.
For a small 1,500-TEU container ship, losses could range from US$10M to US$100M. But for a 20,000-TEU container ship there is a potential loss of US$1Bn or more, according to Mr Gray.
Mr Klenum said there are several potential solutions for reducing accident risk and mitigating losses. These include collaboration across the supply chain to tackle nondeclared and misdeclared dangerous goods, better lashing and securing of containers and weather routeing to avoid storms.
However, the biggest change the industry can make is to “change from prescriptive rules and regulations to goal-based standards and risk assessment-based approvals,” said Mr Klenum. This would encourage improvements in safety from designers, shipbuilders, owners, class and charterers. “Therefore, there will be safety improvements by design and not by accident,” Mr Klenum.
However, the supply chain, from producers through to logistics groups and terminals, all have a part to play in reducing risk, said TT Club’s Mr Fox. They are responsible for the cargo within containers and ensuring their documentation is correct and accurate. Some issues within the supply chain are a lack of knowledge and diligence, especially scientific information, poor decision making and misdeclared dangerous goods.
“Regulations is the baseline, but they are complex and open to interpretation,” said Mr Fox. “They are the lowest common denominator.” He wants suppliers and intermediaries to go further to ensure data is accurate, complete, appropriate and timely.
TT Club is part of the Cargo Integrity Initiative, #Fit4Freight. This was set up to promote awareness and adoption of the CTU Code and related good practice. CTU Code is an update of the Guidelines for Packing of Cargo Transport Units and is endorsed by IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee. This initiative also seeks changes in regulatory requirements and established industry practice, while monitoring adoption of good practice and emerging trends.
DNV GL’s Mr Jefferies highlighted how container ship fire-fighting systems need improvement. “The main reasons for fires are dangerous goods and their treatment, declarations and stowage,” he said. “This is the more important problem to tackle – fires need simply to be avoided.”
But if they do start, fires need to be extinguished immediately and prevented from spreading. “Experience has shown that once you have burning containers, the possibility of successfully fighting a fire on board a container ship is very low,” said Mr Jefferies.
DNV GL is focusing on equipment on board to detect and fight fires, improving the safety of crew, ship and cargo. It has produced class notations, FCS(X), for additional fire safety for container ships. For ships in operation, it offers FCS (C) for enhanced fire safety levels with minor add-ons, FCS (HA) for hazard identification assessments and FCS (HF) for fire extinguishing via cargo hold flooding. There are additional class notations available for newbuildings.
Attendees of the webinar agreed that fires on board container ships were a major industry problem with 84% in agreement or strong agreement, when polled, compared with 11% disagreeing and 5% remaining on the fence.
When asked whether they had been affected by a major container ship fire, 70% said no and 30% yes.
Attendees were also asked their view on the most efficient way to tackle fire on board container ships. Around 56% said detecting fires early by container location, 25% thought enhancing local fighting facilities on board and 19% considered enabling container cooling in all locations was important, but no one voted for flooding the cargo hold in the poll.
They were then asked the best way to reduce the risk of container ship fires. Of those who participated, 33% said developing a booking system to detect misdeclared cargoes, another 30% thought having better methods of deterring those who misdeclare cargoes. Around 20% thought improving ships’ fire detection and fire-fighting systems would be best and 17% said using blockchain technology to control start-to-finish transport of cargoes.
On the subject of blockchains, attendees were asked: What is your feeling about the increased use of artificial intelligence in the shipping industry, from blockchain technology to autonomous ships? Around 56% were positive in their response, only 8% were negative and 36% said they were neither positive nor negative, “it is simply inevitable”.
Attendees were asked what was most important for container ship designs between safety and environmental requirements. 76% said safety and environmental compliance were equally important, another 21% said compliance with safety requirements and just 3% compliance with environmental requirements.
In another poll, 56% of those who responded said current requirements for securing containers were adequate, but 44% disagreed.
For details of this webinar and to watch if from start to finish for free - use this link to Riviera’s extensive webinar library
Use this link for details of Riviera’s upcoming webinars and virtual conferences
Panellists in this webinar were (left to right) Liberian Registry senior vice president for maritime operations Thomas Klenum, Campbell Johnston Clark director Andrew Gray, TT Club risk management director Peregrine Storrs Fox and DNV GL Container Ship Excellence Centre head Holger Jefferies