In an exclusive interview to SAFETY4SEA, Ansuman Ghosh, Director of Risk Assessment (Singapore) at UK P&I Club, emphasizes the crucial role of a comprehensive training approach in bolstering crew preparedness for onboard fire hazards. Ghosh highlights a recently launched industry initiative, the Cargo Fire & Loss Innovation Initiative (CFLII), designed to mitigate cargo fires and losses in the maritime sector.
his program specifically targets the pressing issue of container fires, posing threats to global supply chain safety and sustainability. Recognizing the pivotal role of digitization in improving onboard fire safety, the CFLII aims to harness new technologies for this purpose. The interview underscores Ghosh’s advocacy for the adoption of effective practices, such as blacklisting problematic shippers whose actions may jeopardize safety standards. Moreover, Ghosh emphasizes the significance of establishing a framework for sharing information, asserting that collaboration within the industry can significantly elevate awareness and response capabilities on a broader scale.
SAFETY4SEA: What are the top priorities in your agenda for the next five years?
Ansuman Ghosh: Over the next five years, our top priorities revolve around ensuring the quality of our fleet through safety assessments. Proactively measuring and verifying the success of safety initiatives led by our Managers is paramount. We will maintain a strong focus on Loss Prevention initiatives such as safety advisories, information sharing, and comprehensive training to address evolving risks and incidents. Additionally, as part of our commitment to shipping decarbonization, we are gearing up to facilitate our members’ journeys by actively learning, sharing knowledge, and profiling new risk areas in the urgent quest to reduce emissions. Lastly, recognizing seafarers’ crucial role, we will prioritize crew wellbeing, acknowledging the human element in operating increasingly complex ships.
S4S: What will be the biggest challenge in terms of Loss Prevention up to 2030? How this will affect the industry and how are you preparing to face this?
A.Gh.: The most significant challenge in Loss Prevention up to 2030 lies in the maritime industry’s transformation driven by decarbonization and digitalization. The pivotal role of seafarers in ensuring a smooth transition is threatened by declining happiness levels, complicating retention and recruitment. Addressing this challenge is paramount to minimizing losses. The industry’s viability hinges on initiatives enhancing seafarers’ health and wellbeing, with a focus on retention and recruitment. For a better future, making the maritime sector an attractive option for the youth is crucial, fostering skills and knowledge that align with the evolving industry landscape. This proactive approach ensures a resilient industry and effective Loss Prevention strategies for the challenges anticipated up to 2030.
S4S: Tell us a few words about the Cargo Fire & Loss Innovation Initiative (CFLII). What is the focus and goals of the Initiative?
A.Gh.: Launched in February 2023, the Cargo Fire & Loss Innovation Initiative (CFLII) is a collaborative technology acceleration program to reduce cargo fires and losses in the maritime sector. They are supported by major players like COSCO Shipping Lines, Evergreen Line, HMM, Maersk, ONE, Seaspan, Offen Group, Lloyds Register and others. The UK Club and the TT Club are the first insurers to be members of CFLII. This Initiative addresses the critical issue of container fires, which threaten global supply chain safety and sustainability. The program, backed by key industry stakeholders, seeks to foster collaboration, share ideas, and identify modern technological solutions to prevent these preventable incidents. With a focus on onboard cargo control, fire prevention, and challenges posed by the increasing size of vessels, CFLII aims to expedite technology adoption through trials, the development of best practices, and the shaping of joint requirements.
S4S: What are the lessons learned from the latest accidents involving containership fires? What issues related to reducing the risk of damage, loss and claims need urgent tackling?
A.Gh.: The recent accidents involving containership fires highlight several crucial lessons for the maritime industry. The emergence of lithium-ion battery-induced fires represents a new and significant threat, necessitating a re-evaluation of risk levels. The Maersk Honam incident in 2018, caused by sodium dichloroisocyanurate dihydrate (SDID) cargoes, resulted in tragic consequences, emphasizing the importance of understanding the dangerous cargo supply chain and ensuring checks and balances. The existing International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code was lacking in addressing the thermal instability of transported chemicals. Detection challenges were underscored, with reliance on sample extraction smoke detection systems in cargo holds and visual identification on deck, affected by varying crew sizes, vessel dimensions, time of day, and weather conditions. Firefighting concerns included the limited CO2 onboard and its efficacy dependent on cargo hold air tightness. As significant risks, prevention measures highlighted cargo types like calcium hypochlorite, charcoal, and lithium-ion batteries. Further, addressing misdeclaration, inspection issues, and enhancing information exchange are urgent priorities for reducing the risk of damage, loss, and claims in container ship fires.
S4S: How technology/digitization may affect fire safety onboard?
A.Gh.: Technology and digitization play a pivotal role in enhancing fire safety onboard, addressing the complexities of rapidly spreading fires and the challenges in identifying their sources. Beyond mere compliance, proactive solutions are essential, and industry initiatives are crucial for meaningful changes. For instance, some major operators have implemented advanced tools to scan all bookings to prevent fires rooted in mis-declared or undeclared cargo. The adoption of risk-based stowage, industry-wide, further exemplifies innovative fire prevention strategies. Regarding technology, AI and Machine Learning are emerging as valuable tools for early detection. These technologies can analyze extensive datasets, identifying anomalies that may indicate mis-declared or non-declared cargoes. Onboard wireless connections and digital ecosystems can facilitate the placement of temperature sensors in challenging, isolated locations, swiftly detecting and reporting temperature irregularities. Leveraging technology for safer maritime operations is undoubtedly the way forward.
S4S: What could be some best practices to manage damage/ enhance safety performance onboard containerships?
A.Gh.: Implementing best practices to manage damage and enhance safety performance onboard containerships involves a multifaceted approach. A key strategy is prioritizing “knowing your client,” ensuring a thorough understanding of shippers and their practices. This includes blacklisting problematic shippers whose actions may compromise safety standards. Additionally, fostering information exchange among carriers is crucial; collaboration enhances industry-wide awareness and response capabilities. An established framework for sharing information, extending even to inspection authorities, further strengthens safety measures. By combining these practices, containership operators can create a robust system that promotes transparency, identifies potential risks, and facilitates proactive interventions.
S4S: Have you noticed any trend(s) during the last years and a possible alarming trend(s) for the years to come with respect to cargo handling?
A.Gh.: The recent years have witnessed concerning trends in cargo handling, raising alarms about the future. The push for decarbonization has introduced new cargo types like electric vehicles (EVs) and battery-powered goods on vessels. The proliferation of highly flammable lithium-ion batteries within these cargoes poses an escalating risk. Simultaneously, larger ships are transporting hazardous cargo, doubling the average carrying capacity in the last two decades, amplifying the impact of potential fires. While the assumption that the increasing volume of EVs correlates with onboard fires seems logical, concrete numbers are lacking. Battery fires at sea and land are already prevalent, often resulting from negligence or equipment malfunction. The ease with which fires initiate and the rise of more flammable cargo underscores the growing challenge of containing and preventing fires in the maritime industry. This trend raises critical concerns for the safety of both crew and cargo.
S4S: What are your suggestions for seafarers’ training in order to get better prepared to prevent fire hazards onboard?
A.Gh.: Enhancing seafarers’ preparedness to prevent fire hazards onboard requires a comprehensive training approach encompassing prevention, detection, firefighting, and containment. Recommendations for training improvements involve introducing advanced tools such as container screening tools and innovative detection methods like heat detection, CCTV, and portable IR cameras. These technologies empower seafarers to proactively identify and address potential fire risks during the early stages. In the realm of firefighting, training should emphasize maximizing the effectiveness of existing CO2 systems and incorporating improved manual firefighting tools for container breaching. This equips seafarers with the skills and tools necessary for swift and efficient response in the event of a fire. Moreover, training should focus on effective containment methods, limiting damage and ensuring the safety of both crew and cargo.
S4S: What is your wish list for the industry and/or regulators and all parties involved with respect to container ship safety?
A.Gh.: My wish list for the container ship industry, regulators, and all involved parties revolves around prioritizing and implementing measures to enhance container ship safety. A crucial aspect is to address faults and errors during cargo preparation, emphasizing the prevention of non- or misdeclaration and ensuring proper packaging inside cargo units. This requires a collective commitment to stringent inspection and verification processes. Concerning the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code, my wish is for industry stakeholders and regulators to reevaluate and potentially amend special provisions and limited quantities exemptions. These aspects have been identified as problematic, often exploited by less responsible shippers to transport dangerous goods without proper declaration. Strengthening regulations and fostering a culture of responsibility in adherence to safety protocols will contribute significantly to mitigating the risk of major fire incidents and ensuring the overall safety of container ship operations.
S4S: If you could change one thing that would have either an immediate or profound impact on industry’s safety performance, what would it be and why?
A.Gh.: If I could change one thing with an immediate and profound impact on the industry’s safety performance, it would be to establish a more robust and stringent system for verifying the accuracy of cargo declarations. The current dependence on shippers for accurate information poses a significant risk, as misdeclarations of dangerous goods are a major contributor to incidents at sea. Implementing stricter enforcement and verification processes, perhaps through technological solutions or third-party inspections, would help ensure that the information provided by shippers aligns with the actual contents of containers. Moreover, enhancing awareness and education within the industry about the critical importance of truthful cargo declarations can contribute to a cultural shift towards responsible practices. Addressing intentional misdeclarations, whether for economic reasons or out of ignorance, is vital to preventing catastrophic incidents and improving overall safety performance in container ship operations. The goal is to create a more reliable and transparent system that prioritizes the safety of both seafarers and the maritime environment.
S4S: Do you have any projects/ plans that you would like to share with industry stakeholders?
A.Gh.: Over the last few years, as our commitment to safety, the UK P&I Club has undertaken multiple projects and initiatives. These include:
- Collaborating with maritime charities and crew health partners to address the physical health and mental wellbeing of the crew.
- Partnering with CAE, the world’s biggest civil aviation training company, to provide Members with free access to top-quality Maritime Crew Resource Management courses.
- Working with Lloyd’s Register to develop an innovative and unique checklist app to help the crew in ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements and minimize the risk of port state control (PSC) detentions.
- Exploring simple and cost-effective approaches to enhancing safety through initiatives such as ‘Learning from Normal Work’ and ‘Together in Safety.’
- Investing in collaborative technology acceleration programs such as the Cargo Fire and Loss Innovation Initiative (CFLII) from SafetyTech Accelerator.
- Engaging with members through bespoke workshops and seminars to address their specific needs, identify best practices, and highlight areas for possible improvement in their fleet. Furthermore, through our safety assessment program we aim to assist Members in identifying and mitigating hazards on entered ships across five main risk areas: personal injury, navigation, pollution, machinery and equipment, and cargo. This programme operates separately from our condition surveys regime, is voluntary and is available to all Club Members at no additional cost.
S4S: What is your message to industry stakeholders for enhancing safety performance onboard containerships?
A.Gh.: Recent initiatives in the maritime industry have showcased substantial progress in the tools available to liner operators for detecting fraudulent or mistaken declarations. Leveraging machine learning techniques and incorporating various layers of customer data, these advancements aim to enhance the validation of shipments. Notably, Internet of Things (IoT) devices are emerging as promising solutions capable of monitoring diverse aspects of cargo integrity during transit and issuing timely alerts. However, it’s essential to recognize that while IoT devices can monitor the condition of cargo in transit, they do not address the root cause of the issue. These devices cannot prevent the packing and dispatch of mis- or undeclared cargo. Therefore, a comprehensive approach is needed, combining technological advancements with stringent verification processes, industry education, and potentially third-party inspections. This multifaceted strategy can help create a more resilient system that mitigates the risks associated with inaccurate cargo declarations in the shipping industry.
The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only.