Following the tragic fire aboard Maersk Honam in March this year, Maersk took measures and implemented additional preliminary guidelines for stowage of dangerous goods.
Maersk undertook a thorough review of current safety practices and policies in the stowage of dangerous cargo. It has now completed implementation of new guidelines to improve safety across its container vessel fleet.
The company evaluated over 3,000 United Nations (UN) numbers of hazardous materials. This was in order to further understand and improve dangerous cargo stowage onboard container vessels. Thereafter, it 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. They conducted a comprehensive Hazard Identification study that validated these new guidelines. Maersk implemented these guidelines across their fleet of more than 750 vessels.
Maersk presented the Risk Based Dangerous Goods Stowage principles to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and Danish Maritime Authorities.
Need to review international regulations and practices
“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.
He said this clearly showed the pressing need to review international regulations and practices regarding dangerous goods stowage. This is so in order to optimally protect crew, cargo, environment and vessels.
Maersk developed the Risk Based Dangerous Goods Stowage principles with the aim of minimising risk to crew, cargo, environment and vessel in case a fire develops. It reviewed the different container vessel designs from a risk mitigation perspective. Ultimately it defined six different risk zones.
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. In contrast, the risk tolerance will be higher on deck fore and aft.
Utilising statistics on container fires in the Cargo Incident Notification System (CINS), Maersk defined which UN numbers can be stored in each risk zone.
Develop new industry best practices
Maersk 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.
Jakobsen says container ship fires are a problem for the entire industry. Maersk intends to share and discuss their learnings from this review within relevant industry forums. This is so as to further improve fire safety in the industry.
“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, Maersk will review creating best management practices for dangerous goods stowage with the following participants. ABS, Lloyds Register, the International Group of PandI Clubs, National Cargo Bureau, the TT Club and Exis Technologies.
Once completed, they will publish and present the best management practices to the IMO.
Background: Maersk Honam fire in the Indian Ocean
On Tuesday 6 March 2018, the Maersk liner vessel Maersk Honam reported a serious fire.
The crew managed to release the vessels’ CO2 system into the cargo hold. Regrettably that did not stop the fire.
Maersk Honam 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 accepted all cargoes as per the requirements of the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code. The company stowed them onboard the vessel accordingly.
Five crew members lost their lives in course of the incident.
Maersk is still awaiting the investigation to establish the root cause of the fire in the cargo hold.