Fire, storm and stability issues remain problematic in passenger ships

Passenger and car ferry losses continue to trouble the maritime sector, with fire, storm and stability issues remaining an issue, according to Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS) in its just-released annual “Safety and Shipping Review 2017”.

AGCS said that passenger ferry safety in Europe had improved significantly in the 30 years since the Zeebrugge disaster on March 6th 1987, when the Herald of Free

Enterprise turned on its side, killing 193 passengers and 40 crew, but safety concerns persist, said Chris Turberville, Head of Marine Hull & Liabilities, UK, AGCS. “Standards of safety are not as high in some parts of Asia as they are elsewhere in the world, while we have also seen fires on board vessels in the Baltic,” he said.

Passenger ferry safety remained a major issue in some parts of Asia, said AGCS, despite decades of casualties. In 2015 there were a string of fatal accidents in China and Myanmar, while some 300 people died in 2014 when the MV Sewol capsized en route from Incheon to Jeju in South Korea.

The insurer noted that passenger ferries in Asia were particularly exposed to typhoons. In the Philippines and Indonesia, safety was a persistent problem, driven by poor maintenance, weak enforcement of regulations and passenger overcrowding.

Fires on-board ferries were also of growing concern, said AGCS, noting that the International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) recently warned of an alarming over-representation of fires on-board ro-ro ferries. The failure of electrical equipment in cars and trucks on board, as well as undeclared or misdeclared cargo, were believed to be the major causes of such incidents.

While the East Mediterranean and Black Sea; Japan, Korea and North China; and the British Isles, North Sea, English Channel and Bay of Biscay maritime regions had all seen their five year rolling loss average totals improve considerably over the past decade, the South China, Indochina, Indonesia and Philippines average had seen little change, AGCS said.

Fires were also a risk for car carriers, purpose-built vessels used to transport new and used cars between ports. “There is an inherent risk of fire for car carriers and this is a concern given the size of some vessels, which can carry some 5,000 to 6,000 vehicles at one time,” said Turberville.

Stability issues could also be a factor, as was shown by the Hoegh Osaka, a large car carrier that run aground in January 2015, having listed soon after leaving port in Southampton, UK. “Car carriers and ferries are under immense pressure for port turnaround, but unless the crew carries out stability modelling and checks, there is a risk of instability,” said Turberville.