TT Club Advocates Vigilance To Limiting Container Ship Fires

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Credit: Manson Yim/ Unsplash
  • Insurance specialist TT Club is urging a more comprehensive approach to halting the tide of container ship fires.
  • The MSC Flaminia liability judgment made it clear that regulations only serve as a starting point.
  • Cargo movement begins with the trading of goods – sellers and buyers instruct packers, and whoever becomes the shipper. 

Regulation and improved firefighting techniques have proven insufficient to stem the tide of serious incidents that have resulted in fatalities, significant cargo losses, and ship damage.

TT club

TT Club, a freight transport and logistics insurance specialist insurer, is fighting to persuade cargo interests, supply chain professionals, and law enforcement agencies that the responsibility for mitigating container ship fires is shared by numerous entities involved from end to end of the global supply chain. 

Tragic incident

With the Zim Charleston fire in August and the TSS Pearl in the Red Sea in early October maintaining the estimated sixty-day average occurrence of serious fires, TT is urging a more comprehensive approach to halting the trend.

“There were significant lessons from the tragic incident on the MSC Flaminia, which cost the lives of three seafarers, particularly from the subsequent legal proceedings that adjudged the shipper and NVOC responsible for root cause errors,” says TT’s Peregrine Storrs-Fox. 

Dangerous goods

“Despite the biennial updates to the IMDG Code, including several resulting from this particular incident, the judge’s assessment that the regulations merely set the ‘baseline’ for good practice remains utterly true today.”

As a minimum standard, all those shipping dangerous goods by sea must comply with the most recent mandatory version of the IMDG Code. 

However, the MSC Flaminia liability judgment made it clear that regulations only serve as a starting point. 

Safety responsibilities

“This is a significant statement to which any entity inclined to rely solely on the letter of the law when transporting dangerous goods would do well to pay attention,” Storrs-Fox says.

TT advocates a comprehensive approach, attempting to educate everyone involved in the movement of cargo in containers about all of the factors that contribute to these fires, emphasizing their safety responsibilities.

Inadequate securing

Many significant incidents, both at sea and in storage facilities, are the result of errors, misunderstandings, mis-declarations, and inadequate packing and securing.

Cargo movement begins with the trading of goods – sellers and buyers instruct packers, and whoever becomes the shipper.

They have the same responsibility as packers, warehouse operators, forwarders, logistics companies, carriers of all modes, cargo handlers, and terminal operators.

Attention to accurate classification and declaration is critical for improving outcome certainty from start to finish.

This necessitates truth as well as knowledge of regulations and safe practices.

Long-standing efforts

TT’s efforts to spread such awareness and knowledge are long-standing and prolific.

It recently updated its guideline publication, ‘Book it Right, Pack it Tight,’ with its sister insurer, the UK P&I Club.

This provides critical insights for everyone involved in dangerous goods shipments, including a clear exposé of the IMDG Code’s more technical aspects.

The goal is to influence higher compliance standards by assisting all parties involved in understanding their own responsibilities as well as the responsibilities of their contractual partners.

Required actions

The general aspects of cargo packing are closely related to the issues specific to dangerous goods.

While the IMO/ILO/UNECE Code of Practice for Cargo Transport Unit Packing (CTU Code) remains non-mandatory international law, it is clearly referenced in the IMDG Code.

TT’s participation in the Cargo Integrity Group has aided in the development of the ‘CTU Code – a Quick Guide.’

This has recently been updated and assists those responsible for packing containers and accurately declaring their contents in order to more easily access the guidance contained in the voluminous CTU Code itself.

There is also a helpful Checklist of required actions, which, like the Quick Guide, is available in multiple languages.

TT’s campaign to influence all parties continued in early 2023 with a series of Webinars on container ship fires and ongoing efforts to prevent them.

Main goal

The goal is to raise awareness and debate, particularly around innovations that could materially improve risk, including a number of those whose efforts have been recognized in recent years through the TT Club Innovation in Safety Awards.

As a result, these online forums will add to the valuable weight of knowledge and expertise in the field.

The entry process for this year’s Safety Award is nearing completion, but more information is available on the safety award webpage.

“The complexities of global container trades increase rather than decrease,” Storrs-Fox concludes.

“No single entity can overcome the dangers of these horrific fires; as a result, it is critical that the entire risk be accepted by all involved throughout the supply chain if they are to be successfully reduced.”

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Source: TT Club

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