Maersk Line has issued new guidelines on the dangerous goods stowage in order to improve safety across its container vessel fleet.

The guidelines are an amended version of the company’s existing rules on stowage of dangerous goods and are a result of a deadly fire on-board Maersk Honam in March that claimed the lives of five crew members.

Titled ‘Risk-Based Dangerous Goods Stowage’, the new set of rules were prepared after evaluating more than 3,000 United Nations (UN) numbered categories for hazardous materials, as well as statistics on container fires reported to the Cargo Incident Notification System (CINS).

Intended to reduce fire risk to crew, cargo, the environment and vessel, the guidelines have defined six different risk tolerance zones for each container ship design.

American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) and other industry stakeholders have carried out a comprehensive Hazard Identification study to authenticate the rules, which have already been implemented across more than 750 vessels operated by Maersk.

Maersk Line Fleet Technology head Ole Graa Jakobsen said: “All cargo on-board Maersk Honam was accepted as per the requirements of the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code and stowed on-board the vessel accordingly.

“The international regulations and practices with regards to dangerous goods stowage need to be reviewed in order to optimally protect crew, cargo, environment, and vessels.”

“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.

“This clearly showed us that the international regulations and practices with regards to dangerous goods stowage need to be reviewed in order to optimally protect crew, cargo, environment, and vessels.”

Under the new guidelines, cargo covered by the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code will not be stowed next to the accommodation and main propulsion plant, which is defined as the lowest risk tolerance zone.

Risk tolerance is considered to be low below the deck and in the middle of the vessel, while it is considered higher on deck fore and aft.

Over the next few months, Maersk plans to conduct a review to develop the best management practices for dangerous goods stowage, in cooperation with ABS, Lloyds Register, and others.

Findings of the review will be presented to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).