With the growing size of container vessels, and a recent spate of fires on board these ships, the International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) is concerned that current firefighting provisions are insufficient and has published a position paper calling for better on board firefighting systems for container vessels.
Whilst IUMI expressly welcomes the 2014 amendment to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) to increase the effectiveness of firefighting, the association believes more should be done.
“Recent amendments to SOLAS are a move in the right direction but they do not go far enough. The legal requirements prescribed by SOLAS were originally developed for fires on board general cargo vessels and these ships are structurally very different to a container vessel; and cargo is stored differently. We believe the mode of firefighting set out in SOLAS is not suitable for a modern containership,” said Helle Hammer, IUMI Political Forum Chair.
Namely, IUMI supports as best practice a proposal presented by the German Insurance Association GDV that sets out an improved concept for firefighting facilities on board a containership.
“We suggest creating individual fire compartments below deck to prevent fire from spreading. These compartments would be fitted with fixed Co2 and water-based firefighting systems. Boundary structures would also be fitted above deck to align with the water-cooled bulkheads below and also fitted with fixed fire-fighting systems. In addition, we also recommend the installation of enhanced fire detection systems,” explains Uwe-Peter Schieder, Marine and Loss Prevention, GDV.
Mindful of the increasing size and complexity of modern containerships, IUMI believes that it is necessary for further steps to be taken to improve the safety of the crew, the cargo and the ships themselves. IUMI recommends further discussions with the IMO, flag states, class and relevant industry stakeholders on how best to improve the fire detection, protection and firefighting capabilities on board container vessels.
GDV’s suggestions and IUMI’s position paper can be found herebelow: