2019 was an “unprecedented” year for the number of cargo vessel fires – with most casualties involving hazardous and dangerous goods
An IUMI press conference this week examined the issues around container ship fires and revealed that on 10 February, it submitted a paper to IMO’s maritime safety committee with co-sponsors German flag state, Bahamas, BIMCO and Community of European Shipyards’ Associations. The co-sponsors proposed a new output on the need for amendments to SOLAS chapter 11-2 regulations regarding enhanced provisions for early fire detection and effective control of fires in containerised cargoes stowed under deck and on deck.
IUMI Cargo Committee chair and head of Marine Underwriting NA, Munich Reinsurance America, Sean Dalton told members gathered at the IUMI press conference “2019 was an unprecedented year for the number of cargo vessel fires, predominantly container vessels, and recently with the casualty on COSCO Pacific, the problems have continued. The consistent element in these casualties has been shipments of hazardous materials and dangerous goods and the most recent loss on Cosco Pacific may have been caused by the misdeclaration of a shipment of lithium batteries.”
Misdeclared shipments of hazardous materials is a recurring factor, and Mr Dalton added, with the increased size of vessels, the consequences are much greater. “The holistic approach is what is required, and carriers have taken the unprecedented step of imposing fines for misdeclared cargo. It is something that is an ongoing concern and attracted a lot of work.”
IUMI Policy Forum chair and managing director of Cefor, Helle Hammer added that while “tackling misdeclaration is a key part of this… containerised goods are increasing.”
In 2019, the entire container vessel fleet had a cargo capacity of 20M TEU versus 4.4M TEU in 2000. This corresponds to an average capacity of 5,000 TEU per operating vessel in 2019 versus less than 1,000 TEU in 2000.
Ms Hammer added “The risk is increasing and so we cannot only rely on [solving] misdeclaration, we also need to do something about fire detection and how to put the fire out once it occurs. The larger the vessel the greater the risk to seafarers and the environment.”
Having looked at 56 cases, from 2000 to 2015 there was more than 8,000 TEU damage. Excluding loss or repair of the vessel, and these incidents created an estimated loss of more than US$1.037Bn.