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Insurers call for ships to have 'fire compartments' to stop blazes spreading

THE International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) has urged the industry to strengthen fire protection in the cargo area of container vessels to stop fires spreading

25 October 2019 - 19:00
THE International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) has urged the industry to strengthen fire protection in the cargo area of container vessels to stop fires spreading.The IUMI also called for the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) to be amended by including active and/or passive fire protection onboard new containerships. Additionally, it pointed out the need to upgrade firefighting equipment on existing box ships.

'This year has already seen an alarming number of containership fires,' IUMI said in a news release. IUMI highlighted fires on containerships such as the Yantian Express, APL Vancouver, Grande America, E R Kobe and KMTC Hong Kong.



London-based Drewry Shipping Consultants listed in its Container Insight Weekly eight significant fires between January 3 and August 9 on container and container/roll-on, roll-off ships, reported American Shipper.



At an October 17-18 conference in Arendal, Norway, organised by the marine insurer and P&I Club Gard, IUMI said the need to bolster firefighting capabilities onboard box ships was urgent.



'We need to see more headway to improve the safety of the crew, the environment, the cargo and the ships themselves,' IUMI's policy forum chair Helle Hammer was quoted as saying.



'Mis- and non-declaration of cargo has serious safety implications and is the root cause behind these tragic incidents,' Mr Hammer said. 'Better prevention measures must also address the concerning rise in cargo misdeclaration. We are encouraged to see larger carriers already beginning to crack down on this problem.'



Mr Hammer added: 'There is agreement among experts that the current means of controlling a fire in the cargo hold are of little effect. The safety objectives set out in SOLAS do not seem to be met, and in light of the various recent casualties the time for action is now.'



In partnership with Germany, IUMI is 'calling for additional support from flag administrations and other stakeholders to bring this issue to IMO's (International Maritime Organization) agenda in 2020.'



A 2017 position paper by IUMI, which included a proposal from the German Insurance Association, recommended 'firefighting systems should be arranged to segregate the ship into fire compartments where the fire can be isolated to prevent it from spreading. Onboard systems could then cool the containers and allow them to burn out in a controlled manner.'



IUMI represents 40 national and marine market insurance and reinsurance associations.


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