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Marine Insurers Demand Better Fire Fighting systems for Large Containerships

Describing the current provisions as insufficient taking into consideration the growing size of the container vessels coupled with too many recent fire accidents, the International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) has called for better fire-fighting systems on board the container vessels.

Recent examples of fires include those on NNCI Arauco (9,000 TEU) in September 2016 during welding operations whilst alongside in Hamburg, Hanjin Pennsylvania (4,000 TEU) in November 2002 claiming the lives of two crew members and resulting in a constructive total loss; and MSC Flaminia (6,732TEU) in July 2012, resulting in three fatalities and also a constructive total loss. 

The regulations, IUMI pointed out, framed for general cargo vessels where freight is stored openly in holds are not now ‘suitable for a modern containership’. When the fire breaks out, there is smoke in the hold which makes quick detection of fire thus driving to act quickly with CO2 which can be used directly on the fire.

If the fire breaks out in the open sea or in remote locations, it will be hours before an effective assistance reaches the place, thus exposing the crew to dangers; the delay will damage the cargo, the vessel and the environment also.

IUMI  has published a position paper to support its view that more must be done to improve the safety of crew, the cargo and ships in terms of fire detection, protection and firefighting capability.

Although SOLAS Chapter 11-2/10 was amended at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in 2014 by MSC 92 to specifically increase the effectiveness of firefighting on containerships, the tougher regulations only apply to ships constructed after 1 January 2016.

IUMI said concerns remained about firefighting arrangements on ships built before then and believes the stricter regulations still “do not go far enough”, in view of the substantial increase in containership size over the past few years.

It is supporting a best practice proposal presented by the German insurance association, GDV, which has set out an “improved concept” for firefighting facilities on containerships.

Uwe-Peter Schieder, marine loss and prevention at GDV, explained: “We suggest creating individual fire compartments below deck to prevent fire from spreading.

“These compartments would be fitted with fixed CO2 and water-based firefighting systems. Boundary structures would also be fitted above deck to align with the water-cooled bulkheads below and also fitted with fixed firefighting systems.”

Additionally, Mr Schieder recommended the installation of enhanced fire detection systems.

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