Do not overlook the risk of cargo fires

Swedish Club has issued an advisory on cargo fires, noting that they occur so infrequently that awareness of the risk can slip under the radar. The Club noted that such an incident, though rare, could have disastrous consequences. It said that, with the average cost of a cargo fire running to several million US dollars, cargo fires were not a risk to be overlooked.

The Swedish Club, working in conjunction with fire and explosion investigation experts Burgoyneshas produced a 52-page handbook, ‘Fire! A guide to the causes and prevention of cargo fires’ to offer loss prevention advice on a number of incidents – focusing specifically on self-heating cargoes, but also examining those vessel fires caused by other sources such as cargo hold lights, fumigation, movement of cargo and of course smoking and hot work.

The handbook also highlights how different vessel types fare when the frequency of cargo fires is compared.

Tanker figures were found to be relatively low, a testament to the tight regulation and safety culture that exists in this industry. On the other hand RoRo figures were surprisingly high due to the non-homogeneous nature of the cargo they carry.

Swedish Club’s Director Strategic Business Development & Client Relations Lars A. Malm, said that “when a fire breaks out on board a vessel there is no fire service ready to assist in extinguishing it – that is up to the crew themselves. All those who have worked on board a vessel are aware of the difficulties involved with managing a fire and the crucial importance of fire prevention.”

Burgoynes Partner, Neil Sanders, observed that “self-heating and related issues can affect a wide variety of cargoes including coal, iron in the form of direct reduced iron (DRI), metal turnings, charcoal, seed cake, biomass, fertilisers, solid chemicals and liquid chemicals. Whilst the full relevant International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes Code (IMSBC) or International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (IMDG) requirements must always be understood and followed, ‘Fire!’ is aimed at supporting that understanding and providing valuable support to the seafarer.”