ABS Introduces Industry’s 1st Guide to Tackle Containership Fire Issue

Classification society ABS has issued the shipping industry’s first guide to address firefighting and safety systems of cargo holds of container vessels.

Image Courtesy: Indian Coast Guard

The newly released ABS Guide for Fire-Fighting Systems for Cargo Areas of Container Carriers contains a broad range of notations to tackle cargo fires.

In the past, a series of high-profile fires occurred in cargo holds aboard boxships. This year alone has seen an alarming number of containership fires including Yantian Express, APL Le Havre, APL Vancouver, Grande America, E.R. Kobe and KMTC Hong Kong.

“Container carriers have grown much larger in recent years and the volume of cargo carried has expanded significantly. In addition, the nature of the cargo has changed. Fires involving containers, especially with the volume and type of cargo now being carried, are becoming more frequent and can present a significant risk to the safety of the crew and the vessel,” Gareth Burton, ABS Vice President of Technology, explained.

“Aligned with the ABS safety mission, we address this issue and provide guidance for the development of robust designs that are better suited to address this key industry challenge.”

According to ABS, the guide is for the use of designers, builders, owners and operators in the marine industry 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 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. These requirements are above and beyond current SOLAS and related industry regulations.

Last month, the International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) expressed its concerns about the escalation of containership fires, calling for an urgent improvement of onboard firefighting systems.

IUMI called for all stakeholders to work together and encourage IMO to strengthen fire protection in the cargo area of container vessels, amend SOLAS by explicitly including active and/or passive fire protection on board new container vessels and consider the need to address the firefighting equipment of existing container vessels.

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