IUMI urges more industry cooperation to handle containership fires at sea

20 September 2016 (Last Updated September 20th, 2016 18:30)

The International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) has called for further assistance from marine industry stakeholders, including the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), class shipbuilders and shipping companies, to enhance firefighting capabilities on-board containerships.

The International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) has called for further assistance from marine industry stakeholders, including the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), class shipbuilders and shipping companies, to enhance firefighting capabilities on-board containerships.

The IUMI call came after the NNCI Arauco and Maersk Karachi containerships were recently involved in two seperate fire incidents when they were at sea.

In May, a fire caused by welding operations onboard Maersk Karachi required more than 100 firefighters to control the blaze.

"Currently there are no other methods of fighting a containership fire below deck."

On 1 September, NNCI Arauco was engulfed by fire when it was travelling near Hamburg, Germany.

The fire was caused during welding operations and 300 firefighters were deployed to extinguish the flames.

IUMI loss prevention committee vice-chairman Uwe-Peter Schieder said: “At sea, below-deck fires cannot be fought with water and so CO2 is used instead to displace the oxygen and extinguish the fire.

“However, if the fire is burning within a container, the box will protect it from the CO2 and so this method of fire-fighting is rarely successful. Currently there are no other methods of fighting a containership fire below deck.

“Even on deck, the crew only have access to hoses and nozzles. They do not have sufficient monitors or foam and so cannot cool the vessel’s structure.”

The association expressed its concern over the issue that seafarers would be sent to handle onboard fires with insufficient equipment.  

It also showed concern over the MSC Flaminia incident, which killed three seafarers. During the incident, the vessel burned for almost six weeks, demolishing 70% of the cargo.

International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) regulations are currently in place to address such incidents.

However, IUMI has urged all the industry stakeholders to work together to make sustainable solutions to protect lives and property at sea.