IUMI expresses concern at firefighting provisions

In the latest IUMI Eye for December 2017 the marine insurance group has said that, with container vessels growing in size and a recent spate of fires on board these ships, it was concerned that current firefighting provisions were insufficient. IUMI noted that in September 2017 it published a position paper calling for better on board fire-fighting systems for container vessels.

IUMI said that it expressly welcomed the 2014 amendment to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) to increase the effectiveness of firefighting, the association believed that more should be done. It said that recent amendments to SOLAS were a move in the right direction but felt that they did not go far enough.

The legal requirements prescribed by SOLAS were originally developed for fires on board general cargo vessels. IUMI noted that these ships were structurally very different to container vessels, with cargo being stored differently.

IUMI said it believed that the mode of fire-fighting set out in SOLAS was not suitable for a modern containership, particularly as they continued to grow in size. IUMI felt that fire-fighting systems should allow for segregating the ship into fire compartments, where the fire could be isolated in order to prevent it from spreading. Systems could then cool the containers and allow the burning containers to burn out in a controlled manner.

In addition IUMI felt that better prevention measures can be taken: Containers often held a wide range of hazardous and toxic substances and misdeclaration of the containers’ content had a significant impact. IUMI believed that a considerable amount of containers’ content was mis-declared and it felt this could lead to insufficient handling of the containers, while also increasing the danger of combustion. It would also impact any particular fire-fighting strategy.

IUMI recommended further discussions with the IMO, flag states, class and relevant industry stakeholders on how best to improve fire detection, protection and fire-fighting capabilities on board container vessels.