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TIME TO TAKE ACTION AGAINST CONTAINER SHIP FIRES
This year has already seen an alarming number of container dry cargo ship fires including Yantian Express, APL Vancouver, Grande America, E.R. Kobe and KMTC Hong Kong.  The escalation is of growing concern and the International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) has called for an urgent improvement to onboard firefighting systems.

At a recent conference in Arendal, Norway, organised by marine insurer and P&I Club, Gard, and attended by IMO, flag states, shipowners, salvors, class, and insurers, IUMI strengthened its position on this global issue.

Helle Hammer, Chair of IUMI’s Policy Forum, explains: “Fire-fighting capabilities onboard containerships are deficient and we need to see more headway to improve the safety of the crew, the environment, the cargo and the ships themselves.

“Mis and non-declaration of cargo has serious safety implications and is the root cause behind these tragic incidents.  There is agreement among experts that the current means of controlling a fire in the cargo hold are of little effect.

“The safety objectives set out in SOLAS do not seem to be met, and in light of the various recent casualties the time for action is now.”

During the IMO’s 101st Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) meeting in June 2019, IUMI raised its concerns about container ship fires and received support from various quarters, including IACS.

Now, in partnership with the German flag state, IUMI is calling for additional support from flag administrations and other stakeholders to bring this issue to IMO’s agenda in 2020.

In 2017, IUMI published a position paper to raise a variety of concerns including inadequate fire detection and onboard firefighting systems both on deck and under deck; and the need to revise SOLAS. This position paper will provide the foundation for the IMO proposal.

“Our position paper recommends that firefighting systems should be arranged to segregate the ship into fire compartments where the fire can be isolated to prevent it from spreading.

“Onboard systems could then cool the containers and allow them to burn out in a controlled manner.

“Fixed monitors to adequately attack the fire and improved fire detection system are further measures proposed to allow for an appropriate response mechanism.

“Better prevention measures must also address the concerning rise in cargo mis-declaration. The sad reality is that we can no longer sit idle.  Containerships are increasing in size and complexity and this will only exacerbate the problem.”

The IUMI is calling for all stakeholders to work together and encourage IMO to

Chao Wei, ... Stephen Liu, in Handbook of Environmental Degradation of Materials (Third Edition), 2018

Bulk carriers and oil tankers experienced a large number of losses during the 1970s to 1990s. The International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) took a multiyear initiative and developed the Unified Requirements (UR) with the aim of improving the structural strength of bulk carriers and oil tankers. Higher levels of corrosion-protection requirements were added during the design stage to account for the confirmed higher levels of wastage due to corrosion, cargo handling, or other causes such as gas released from cargo.

In the 2000s, the IACS developed the Common Structural Rules (CSR), which created the industry standards for building tankers and bulk carriers (IACS, 2016). The IACS CSR was developed on the foundation of first principles, limit state design, identified structural failure modes, applications of advanced analytical tools such as finite-element method, miner’s rules for fatigue damage estimates, etc. The CSR values of corrosion-prevention practices are predefined based on statistical analysis of extensive corrosion wastages records. The wastage allowance that triggers plate renewal are rationalized.

The design, construction, and operation of this type of ship has attracted considerable attention over the years, as it became evident that the speed of loading/discharging as well as the sequence of the holds (where cargoes were loaded/discharged) resulted in structural problems and even catastrophic failures.

As a result of these incidents, the calculations of certain strength members of the ship had to be reviewed, with additional material being introduced in the hull areas that required strength improvements.

The single-deck design format of the cargo holds is that of a totally unobstructed box. This enables the carriage of dry bulk cargoes, such as grain, iron, coal, and concentrates of iron, bauxite, and aluminum.

The cargo holds’ assembly is a rectangular prism [or cuboid], with the accommodation, navigating bridge and engine room arranged at the after end and with the bow arranged at the forward end (Figure 11).

Large bulk carriers usually rely on port facilities for off-loading and these are generally similar to that depicted in Fig. 3.6. Intermediate bulk carriers, however, often have onboard facilities for self-off-loading. Such vessels are often used for the transfer of materials, such as cement, to storage depots at ports for local supply or to off-shore drilling rigs.

Materials are typically transferred from storage holds in the ship by a combination of air-assisted gravity conveyors and vacuum conveying systems, into twin blow tanks located in the center of the vessel. High-pressure air is supplied by onboard diesel driven compressors and materials are conveyed to dockside storage facilities through flexible rubber hose, which solves the problems of both location and tidal movements.

The rate at which these large vessels are lost is a matter of great concern. Between 1973 and 1996 the losses amounted to 375. The fatality rate is likewise disturbing; for the same period it was about 150 per year, one-fifth of the total average loss rate for all shipping. Furthermore, little is known about the manner in which these ships foundered and whether or not thereis a common design fault. Technical aspects of this problem are reviewed by Jubb,9 and Faith10 describes three of the losses in detail.

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