Container vessel fires are increasing. Fire safety has become an even higher priority for the marine insurance industry since the start of 2019 due to the growing number of fire incidents on container vessels. With the increasing size of these high-value vessels, there is great potential for costly claims. According to an April 2020 analysis1 of Nordic Marine Insurance Statistics (NoMIS) data, concerns include a lack of fire-fighting capabilities on board as well as misdeclaration of high-risk goods.
Container vessel fires can result in life-threatening situations for crew members on board. In addition, these incidents can disrupt supply chains relying on sea freight by causing material damages, severe environmental impact, long shipment delays, and higher costs for salvage efforts.
When goods are on the water, they become vulnerable to a variety of threats such as natural disasters, mechanical failures, and human error, to name a few. (Keep in mind, the amount of risk is proportionate to the size of the shipment, the degree of hazardous material, and the value of the goods.) However, with the rapid growth of international trade and the introduction of new technologies, new risks are emerging:
Examining incidents provides us a unique opportunity to identify emerging global supply chain factors, improve preparedness, enhance business continuity, and prioritize future research and policy decisions.
The prevention of fire on board incidents aligns with the goals outlined in the Responsible Care® Guiding Principles:
Chemical manufactures are encouraged to review their products’ supply chains to identify marine transportation and to conduct risk assessments of the products, containers and packaging of those in the marine environment. Transportation safety starts with the chemical manufactures and the selection of packaging and shipping containers and systems.
Selecting equipment and supplies that can handle the unique stressors in the marine environment is a helpful first step. Labeling, packing, and placarding shipments following international dangerous goods regulations helps supply chain partners to be aware of and recognize product hazards.
Properly describing the products on shipping documents and commercial interactions can further foster transportation safety as container handlers and carriers can make informed, safe decisions for container placement and inspection.
Specifically, chemical shippers can: