‘We can’t continue to sift through the burnt wreckage’

Date: Wednesday, May 29, 2019
Source: American Shipper

Andrew Kinsey, senior risk consultant at the insurer Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty, says carriers need to be proactive in preventing ship fires.

Ship fires have continued to be one of the leading loss leaders in the shipping industry through the first half of 2019, and carriers need to find proactive ways to deal with the threat of fires, said Andrew Kinsey, senior risk consultant at the insurer Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty.

There have been at least half a dozen fires reported on vessels since Jan. 1, including a deadly fire and series of explosions on a tanker off of Hong Kong in January. The month also saw fires on board the containerships Yantian Express and APL Vancouver. Grimaldi Group has had two ships catch fire this year — the Grande America, which sank in mid-March in the Bay of Biscay after a fire forced those on board to abandon ship, and the Grande Europa, which suffered two fires within hours in mid-May.

Fires caused the total loss of 112 ships between 2008 and 2017, according to Allianz’s Safety and Shipping Review 2018. Kinsey said the danger of ship fires, following deadly blazes on the Maersk Honam and Sincerity Ace in 2018, will be highlighted in the 2019 edition of the Safety and Shipping Review, which is due out June 4.

“One of the key things is like with the Yantian Express we have statements from onboard crew that that fire, which led to general average of the vessel, started in a single container,” Kinsey told American Shipper. “That just highlights how critical that it is that we get this right. There’s not a lot of room for error on this. One container, one mis-declared or one improperly secured cargo can lead to the loss of an entire vessel.”

Mis-declared flammable chemicals are believed to have played a role in Saturday’s fire and explosion on board the KMTC Hong Kong in Thailand (pictured above) that caused more than 130 people to be taken to the hospital. An inspection team found calcium hypochlorite in 13 containers and chlorinated paraffin wax in five others among the 35 containers that remained on the ship, Port of Thailand Authority director Kamolsak Phromprayoon said, according to The Nation.

The port administration has fined the owner of the 1,585-TEU ship 50,000 baht (about $1,570) and could take legal action against the South Korean shipping firm for its failure to declare the chemicals stored in the containers, Laem Chabang Port Director Yutthana Mokkhao said, according to Thai PBS World. Yutthana said there are still many containers at the port that are thought to contain chemicals and they want the Customs Department to investigate, according to the article.

Undeclared calcium hypochlorite is suspected in cases involving six ships in 2015 and the APL Austria in 2017, according to the marine and energy insurer The Standard Club’s “Standard Safety: Better box booking” released in March 2018.

“I think the key to it right now stands at identifying and trying to get on a footing as we’re proactive on this rather than being reactive as we’ve been doing. It’s gone on too long,” Kinsey said. “We can’t continue to sift through the burnt wreckage and say, ‘That’s what was here.’ We have to start to identify it before it even comes through the gate at the terminal much less being stowed on the vessel.”

Technology — including artificial intelligence — can play a role in proactively preventing ship fires, he said, because it can improve communication between carriers. The Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA) — with members that include CMA CGM, Evergreen, Hyundai Merchant Marine, Yang Ming, ZIM, MSC, Maersk, Hapag-Lloyd and Ocean Network Express — aims to “create common information technology standards to make sure the industry is more efficient for both customers and shipping lines.”

The DSCA could help the companies speak to each other to “search for those key words that might lead to mis-declared or undeclared cargo,” Kinsey said.

Calcium hypochlorite may be mis-declared as calcium chloride, according to a guideline for carrying the substance released in 2016 by the Cargo Incident Notification System (CINS) and the International Group of P&I Clubs (IGPI). Other trade names encountered include BK Powder, bleaching powder, CCH, disinfectant, Hy-chlor and Chloride of lime or Chlorinated lime, the guideline states.

“Anytime you’re carrying a container there’s dangers right now and something we have to get out there and really try to use the technology that’s available to think of new and creative solutions to make this shipping safer,” Kinsey said.

The consolidation of the industry into alliances also highlights the importance of communication across platforms, Kinsey said.   

Blue Water Reporting data shows the KMTC Hong Kong is the smallest of three ships on the KMTC/HMM – New Thailand Service. Photos of the fire show both KMTC and HMM containers on board.

“It’s no longer just one shipping line saying, ‘This is what we require for safe packaging, loading and declaration of cargo.’ You’re going to end up with other people’s cargo on your vessel,” Kinsey said. “I think the alliances in their very nature highlight the importance of being able to communicate across their booking platforms so that their booking notes can be read and vetted because that’s going into the dangerous cargo manifest on another company’s vessel.” 

The National Cargo Bureau, in an initiative with Maersk and other members of the CINS, has started to randomly inspect a sample of 500 containers arriving at U.S. ports. 

“We should have some meaningful and probably some shocking numbers when we are done with the 500,” said Ian Lennard, president of the National Cargo Bureau, according to a January American Shipper article.

Kinsey said, “I can’t stress how important that data is going to be to try to take it up the chain of command to the IMO. We have the regulations that state how this cargo should be carried, but we don’t have the enforcement to make sure that it is being properly declared and stowed.”

Calcium hypochlorite is designated as an IDGM Class 5.1 oxidizing agent and can result in a fire without the need for an external ignition source if mixed with organic materials. The code specifies the cargo must be carried on deck, shaded from direct sunlight and all sources of heat and be placed in a properly ventilated area, according to the Standard Club.

The CINS and IGPI guidelines also require the use of plastic drums with adequate air circulation to be used for packaging; limit the package to 45 kilograms net weight in drums and a limit on the maximum payload per container not exceeding 14 tonnes; and that the container — either a dry container or reefer — is accessible in the stow.

Maersk announced in September it developed “risk-based dangerous goods stowage principles.” Kinsey, however, doesn’t think additional regulations are necessary, but wants increased compliance with the existing regulations.

“Follow the rules. It’s that simple. Follow the rules,” he said. “The rules are there. We just have to make sure people are actively applying the regulations that the cargo is being both declared, properly documented, properly packaged and the packing properly secured inside the container.”
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