This year has already seen an alarming number of boxship fires including Yantian Express, APL Le Havre, APL Vancouver, Grande America, E.R. Kobe and KMTC Hong Kong.
At a conference in Arendal, Norway, organized by marine insurer and P&I Club, Gard, and attended by IMO, flag states, shipowners, salvors, class, and insurers, IUMI stressed its stance on this global issue.
“Fire-fighting capabilities onboard containerships are deficient and we need to see more headway to improve the safety of the crew, the environment, the cargo and the ships themselves,” Helle Hammer, Chair of IUMI’s Policy Forum, explained.
“Mis and non-declaration of cargo has serious safety implications and is the root cause behind these tragic incidents. 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.”
During the IMO’s 101st Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) meeting in June 2019, IUMI raised its concerns and received support from various quarters, including IACS. Now, in partnership with the German flag state, IUMI is calling for additional support from flag administrations and other stakeholders to bring this issue to IMO’s agenda in 2020.
In 2017, IUMI published a position paper to raise a variety of concerns including inadequate fire detection and onboard firefighting systems both on deck and under deck; and the need to revise SOLAS. This position paper will provide the foundation for the IMO proposal, according to the union.
“The sad reality is that we can no longer sit idle. Containerships are increasing in size and complexity and this will only exacerbate the problem,” Hammer added.
As this is an issue affecting the entire maritime industry, IUMI is calling for all stakeholders to work together and encourage IMO to strengthen fire protection in the cargo area of container vessels, amend SOLAS by explicitly including active and/or passive fire protection on board new container vessels and consider the need to address the firefighting equipment of existing container vessels.