Following the tragic fire aboard the containership Maersk Honam in March this year, in which five crew members lost their lives (see earlier story), Maersk took measures and implemented additional preliminary guidelines for stowage of dangerous goods. The company has now completed implementation of new guidelines to improve safety across its container vessel fleet and has developed a new set of principles called Risk Based Dangerous Goods Stowage.
“All cargo aboard Maersk Honam was accepted as per the requirements of the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code and stowed onboard 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,” says 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.”
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 the 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 IMO and the Danish Maritime Authorities.
The 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 accommodations 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 categories of dangerous goos can be stored in each risk zone.
Maersk says 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,” says Ole Graa Jakobsen. “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, Lloyd’s 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 IMO.
Press Releases: Maersk Line
Photo Courtesy: Maersk Line