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.
Emerging maritime challenges were at the forefront of discussions at the 11th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) Inter-Sessional Meeting (ISM) on Maritime Security held in Da Nang, Viet Nam, on 14-15 March. Participants had the opportunity to exchange views on regional maritime issues, review progress of their maritime security work plan, and discuss proposed activities over the coming year.
IMO took the opportunity to update ARF members on IMO’s work in Asia and told senior maritime officials of potential future technical cooperation projects in the region. IMO also talked about improving the implementation, among ASEAN members, of maritime security measures, including the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS).
It was reported by IMO on 13 March that a new set of publicly-available guidelines for monitoring plastics and microplastics in the oceans will help harmonize how scientists and others assess the scale of the marine plastic litter problem.
These guidelines* for the monitoring and assessment of plastic litter and microplastics in the ocean have been published by the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP), a body that advises the United Nations system on the scientific aspects of marine environmental protection.
Guidelines cover what to sample, how to sample it and how to record and assess plastics in the oceans and on the shoreline, including establishing baseline surveys. They include recommendations, advice and practical guidance, for establishing programmes to monitor and assess the distribution and abundance of plastic litter, also referred to as plastic debris, in the ocean.