Worldwide there are approximately 3,000 merchant ports and the work of the Harbour Master can vary widely from country to country and from port to port even within the same country.
After a thorough review of current safety practices and policies in the stowage of dangerous cargo, Maersk has now completed implementation of new guidelines to improve safety across its container vessel fleet.
Following the tragic fire aboard Maersk Honamin March this year, Maersk took measures and implemented additional preliminary guidelines for stowage of dangerous goods. The company evaluated over 3,000 United Nations numbers of hazardous materials in order to further understand and improve dangerous cargo stowage in container vessels and developed a new set of principles called Risk Based Dangerous Goods Stowage.
Call for comprehensive study
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 these 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 the IMO as well as the Danish Maritime Authorities.
In the words of Ole Graa Jakobsen, Head of Fleet Technology at Maersk: ‘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.
‘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.’
The Risk Based Dangerous Goods Stowage principles have been developed with the aim of minimising 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 (IMDG) 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 amidships, whereas 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.
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 added: ‘Container ship 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.
‘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.
The illustration appearing here is from www.maersk.com©
Further review and presentation to IMO
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 the IMO.
Backgroundto the Maersk Honamfire in the Indian Ocean
On 6 March 2018, the Maersk liner vessel Maersk Honamreported a serious fire. The crew managed to release the vessel’s CO2 system into the cargo hold. Unfortunately, that did not extinguish the fire.
Maersk Honamwas 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. All cargo was accepted as per the requirements of the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code and stowed in the vessel accordingly.
Five crew members lost their lives in course of the incident.
It is understood that Maersk is still awaiting the result of an investigation to establish the root cause of the fire in the cargo hold.
On 13 November speaking in Tokyo on behalf of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), its Chairman, Esben Poulsson, highlighted serious concerns about the challenge presented by the United States.
In his words: ‘To the proven benefits of multilateralism and the existing global trading order underpinned by a system of international rules and norms which has brought peace and prosperity since World War Two’.
He added: ‘The view that international trade can be seen as some kind of zero sum game is demonstrably false.’
Poulsson acknowledged that the US has legitimate concerns about the policies of some of its trading partners, concerns which to some extent ICS also shares, particularly with regard to China and South Korea’s possible contribution towards overcapacity in shipping.
The IMO regulation that sets out preventive security measures on detecting and deterring threats to ships and port facilities – the ISPS Code* – was the subject of a training workshop that took place in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago from 5-9 November.
This workshop was initiated as a means of assistance to potential Designated Authority (DA) and Port Facility Security Officers (PFSOs) to improve their knowledge of how to implement the relevant provisions in the ISPS Code and SOLAS Chapter XI-2. This followed a national maritime security workshop on design and conduct of drills and exercises organized for Trinidad and Tobago by IMO last year, the outcomes of which are being addressed in part by this new workshop.