Maersk: New Cargo Guidelines After Containership Fire
Maersk has implemented new guidelines on dangerous goods stowage that aim to improve safety practices across its fleet in the wake of the fire aboard containership Maersk Honam that killed five crewmembers earlier this year.
Following the deadly fire, Maersk evaluated more than 3,000 United Nations (UN) numbers of hazardous materials in order to further understand and improve dangerous cargo stowage on board container vessels and developed a new set of principles called Risk Based Dangerous Goods Stowage.
Together with the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS), Maersk called for a workshop with other industry stakeholders to conduct a comprehensive Hazard Identification study that validated these new guidelines which have now been implemented across Maersk Line’s fleet of more than 750 vessels. The Risk Based Dangerous Goods Stowage principles have also been presented to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) as well as the Danish Maritime Authorities.
Maersk is still awaiting the investigation to establish the root cause of the fire tha broke out in a cargo hold aboard Maersk Honam while the vessel was sailing in the Indian Ocean on March 6, 2018. The ships was carrying dangerous goods in the cargo hold where the fire originated, however at this time, there is no evidence to suggest that dangerous goods caused the fire, Maersk said.
“All cargo aboard Maersk Honam was accepted as per the requirements of the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code and stowed on board the vessel accordingly. Despite this, as the fire originated in a cargo hold in front of the accommodation which held several containers with dangerous goods, it had an unbearably tragic outcome,” said Ole Graa Jakobsen, Head of Fleet Technology at Maersk. “This clearly showed us that the international regulations and practices with regards to dangerous goods stowage needs to be reviewed in order to optimally protect crew, cargo, environment and vessels.”
The Risk Based Dangerous Goods Stowage principles have been developed with the aim of minimizing risk to crew, cargo, environment and vessel in case a fire develops. The different container vessel designs were reviewed from a risk mitigation perspective and ultimately six different risk zones defined.
Cargo covered under the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code will no longer be stowed next to accommodation and main propulsion plant which is defined as the zone with the lowest risk tolerance. Similarly, risk tolerance will be low below deck and in the middle of the vessel, whereas the risk tolerance will be higher on deck fore and aft. Utilizing statistics on container fires in the Cargo Incident Notification System (CINS), Maersk defined which UN numbers can be stored in each risk zone.
Maersk said it will continue to review its rules and policies for accepting dangerous goods and assess how to further improve them. Together with other members of the CINS, Maersk is seeking to channel these experiences into developing new industry best practices.
“Containership fires are a problem for our entire industry and we intend to share and discuss our learnings from this thorough review within relevant industry forums. We very much believe that discussions, views and insights among container carriers can further improve fire safety in our industry,” Jakobsen said. “We aim for long term improvements by reviewing our systems and then designing an end-to-end process that is safe for our seafarers and smooth for our customers.”
In the coming months, a review aimed at creating best management practices for dangerous goods stowage will be undertaken with participation from ABS, Lloyds Register, the International Group of P&I Clubs, National Cargo Bureau, the TT Club and Exis Technologies. Once the project is completed the best management practices will be published and presented to the IMO.