With the growing size of container vessels concerns arose that current firefighting provisions are insufficient.
Amid a recent spate of fires on board these ships, the International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) has published a position paper calling for better on board firefighting systems for container vessels.
Recent examples include fires 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 (6,732 TEU) in July 2012, resulting in three fatalities and also a constructive total loss.
While IUMI said it welcomes the 2014 amendment to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) to increase the effectiveness of firefighting, the association believes more should be done.
“Recent amendments to SOLAS are a move in the right direction but they do not go far enough. The legal requirements prescribed by SOLAS were originally developed for fires on board general cargo vessels and these ships are structurally very different to a container vessel; and cargo is stored differently. We believe the mode of firefighting set out in SOLAS is not suitable for a modern containership,” Helle Hammer, IUMI Political Forum Chair, said.
IUMI added that it supports a proposal presented by the German Insurance Association GDV that sets out an improved concept for firefighting facilities on board a containership.
“We believe a new technical solution is needed to improve current firefighting practice on container vessels, particularly as these ships are continuing to grow in size,” Uwe-Peter Schieder, Marine and Loss Prevention, GDV, said.
GDV suggests 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 fire-fighting systems. In addition, GDV suggests the installation of enhanced fire detection systems.
IUMI recommended further discussions with the IMO, flag states, class and relevant industry stakeholders on how best to improve the fire detection, protection and firefighting capabilities on board container vessels.
Separately, IUMI warned that the offshore energy insurance market was “sinking”, based on declining total premium income set alongside upstream energy large losses for 2015-16 of USD 4.8 billion.
“In recent years it would appear that claims have exceeded the global premium base and the last two underwriting years have seen significant losses,” James McDonald, chairman of IUMI’s Offshore Energy Committee, said.