Insurers look to further fuel debate on cargo fire safety

Cargo fires are rare, but deadly. Credit: Getty Images

The insurance industry has stepped up its bid to push the issue of cargo fires higher up the agenda, less than a month after an impassioned plea from the International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI).

P&I insurer the Swedish Club has entered debate warning owners that while cargo fires are infrequent they can be deadly and more attention needs to be paid to reduce the risk of a blaze on board.

The club has issued a new guide for its members on cutting the risk of cargo fires adding when fires occur it is down to the crew to react and save the cargo the vessel and their own lives.

Lars Malm, its director strategic business development & client relations, Lars Malm, said: “When a fire breaks out on board a vessel there is no fire service ready to assist in extinguishing it – that is up to the crew themselves. All those who have worked on board a vessel are aware of the difficulties involved with managing a fire and the crucial importance of fire prevention.”

The guide has been produced with Burgoynes, experts specialising in the investigation of fires, explosions and other major incidents, and partner, at the firm Neil Sanders, added: “Self-heating and related issues can affect a wide variety of cargoes including coal, iron in the form of direct reduced iron (DRI), metal turnings, charcoal, seed cake, biomass, fertilisers, solid chemicals and liquid chemicals. While the full relevant International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes Code (IMSBC) or International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (IMDG) requirements must always be understood and followed, the guide is aimed at supporting that understanding and providing valuable support to the seafarer.”

It comes as the IUMI annual conference in Tokyo saw the publication of a position paper on the issue, which called for more to be done to improve the safety of crew, the cargo and ships in terms of fire detection, protection and firefighting capability.

IUMI said the growing size of vessels meant that despite tightening of the regulations with regards to firefighting facilities on board vessels they still do not go far enough.

It backed a set of proposals for best practice by the German insurance association, GDV, which has set out an “improved concept” for firefighting facilities on containerships which includes a range of enhances rules which are designed to stop the spread of fires on board.

Contact Jon Guy

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