At sea - September 2018: International ship's crew performing monthly fire drill exercise.
ID 133214215 © Denys Yelmanov |

Two new initiatives show how the box shipping industry is now working together to tackle a major safety issue for ships and crews.

Fires onboard containerships continue to make the headlines, with costly and sometimes tragic consequences. Indeed, so bad has the problem become that carriers and forwarders have warned shippers of the potential consequences of hazardous or dangerous cargo being mis-declared.

Dangerous goods, particularly when not properly identified or accounted for, present a risk to the safety of the ship and, more importantly, the people on board. But the industry is acting to manage the risks and work collaboratively to improve safety for shippers, carriers and crews.

Two new initiatives demonstrate how classification societies and carriers can better identify the risks of hazardous cargo and how the latest, largest containerships and the smaller vessels can improve fire safety margins in high-risk areas.

In both cases, the critical issue is risk identification and reduction, an acknowledgement that led ABS and the Cargo Incident Notification System (CINS) to develop a risk-based approach to stowing dangerous goods on container vessels.

CINS is a box shipping line initiative founded to increase safety in the supply chain, reduce the number of cargo incidents onboard ships and highlight the risks caused by certain cargo and/or packing failures.

The CINS publication, Safety Considerations for Ship Operators Related to Risk-Based Stowage of Dangerous Goods on Containerships, is the product of a collaboration between CINS members, facilitated by ABS, to develop operational guidance.

Critically, the guidance was developed from key lessons learned, provided by CINS members from past incidents.

It is a risk-based approach that frames goals, functional requirements and strategies associated with dangerous goods stowage to provide practical advice aimed at advancing safety on containerships.

ABS has also published its Guide for Fire-Fighting Systems for Cargo Areas of Container Carriers, the first guide of its kind to address firefighting and safety systems of container cargo holds, the location of a series of high-profile fires.

Development of the guidance reflects the fact that container vessels have grown ever larger in recent years and the volume – and nature – of the cargo they carry has expanded significantly.

Aligned with the core ABS safety mission, the guidance addresses this issue and provides advice for the development of more robust vessel designs that are better suited to address this challenge.

The guide is for the use of designers, builders, owners and operators and specifies the ABS requirements for addressing fire safety in four key areas: fire-fighting for containers stowed on deck; fire-fighting for containers stowed below; fire safety of the deckhouse; and container hold flooding as a last-resort measure for fire-fighting.

These notations address early fire detection, more efficient fire suppression, better protection of crew and the safety considerations associated with cargo hold flooding as a means of fire-fighting; requirements that go above and beyond current SOLAS and related industry regulations.

For more than 50 years, ABS has been a trusted technical advisor for the containership sector. From the very first containership in operation to today’s most advanced ships, ABS has a strong track record for aiding the containership sector in identifying and leveraging new concepts to improve operations, protect the environment and enhance safety.

Safety Considerations for Ship Operators Related to Risk-Based Stowage of Dangerous Goods on Containerships is available on the CINS Website:

The ABS Guide for Fire-Fighting Systems for Cargo Areas of Container Carriers is available to download here.

This a guest post by Gareth Burton, American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) vice president for technology


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