Photo: Sri Lanka Ports Authority

Top container carriers have embarked on a new project to address ship fires and cargo losses as lithium-ion batteries have stolen the limelight from sodium hypochlorite as the leading cause for concern.

The Safetytech Accelerator Cargo Fire & Loss Innovation Initiative (CFLII) involves carriers and ship owners Evergreen, HMM, Maersk, Offen Group, ONE and Seaspan and class society Lloyd’s Register in developing technologies to prevent fires and overboard cargo losses, as well as promoting safe and secure stowage.

“The main cause for cargo fires on containerships is the integrity of dangerous goods throughout the supply chain,” said Maersk head of marine standards Aslak Ross. “Therefore, it is a problem that can only be improved through industry-wide solutions and for that reason we are a strong believer in sharing learnings across the industry to improve safety.”

The Safetytech Accelerator programme will focus on onboard cargo control, comprising secure loading, lashing and monitoring of cargo, early and effective fire detection and response and the difficulties inherent to large vessels, which represent a bigger aggregation of risk.

Later today, TT Club risk management director Peregrine Storrs-Fox will be speaking on cargo fires, which have exercised TT Club in recent years as it attempts to decide, alongside other insurers, just how much risk is posed by shipping lithium-ion batteries.

Mr Storrs-Fox’s colleague, Mike Yarwood, recently told The Loadstar the problem was being exacerbated by the design of consumer electronics. Instead of being transported empty and using standard AA or D batteries installed at destination, modern gadgets tend to have non-removable USB-charged batteries.

This means there has been a massive increase in the number of batteries being transported. “…they are in half a dozen devices around this room, including the one I’m talking to you on,” he said.

But the threat of battery fires is not limited to containerised cargo, electric vehicles (EVs) are also a growing cause for concern. Felicity Ace, which sank after a catastrophic fire, was carrying 4,000 luxury cars and batteries were thought to have been, at the very least, a contributing factor.

Late last year, a TT Club white paper, written with UK P&I Club and consultant Brookes Bell, highlighted that various regulatory loopholes meant there was no requirement for EVs to be marked or distinguished from conventional vehicles and are loaded just like conventional vehicles.

“Because of this, carriers do not generally have a list of all EVs on board, or their locations,” the report read. Making this distinction “would allow carriers to plan stowage locations and the monitoring of EVs during the voyage in greater detail, with a view to developing early detection, evacuation and/or firefighting procedure” it added.

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  • David Brennan

    February 22, 2023 at 2:31 pm

    From 1 January 2025, there will be an opportunity to differentiate EVs powered by lithium ion batteries from other vehicles as the UN Subcommittee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods has adopted a new entry into the 23rd revised edition of the Model Regulations, UN3556, Vehicle, lithium ion battery powered. The changes to the UN Model Regulations will now be considered by the modal bodies, including the IMO for the IMDG Code.