Numerous risks of a technical nature are not being considered by owners when they opt to construct the ever bigger container ships, the Nordic Association of Marine Insurers (Cefor), of Oslo, has warned.
Apart from the commercial challenges in operating these ships such as upgrading port facilities and fairway infrastructure, the Cefor Technical Forum has identified a number of technical risk elements “that are of particular concern from an insurer’s perspective and that should have more focus when Ultra Large Container Vessels (ULCVs) are being designed and brought into service.”
There are 69 ULCVs now sailing of more than 14,501 teu and including all known newbuildings, the total adds up to 148 vessels. The association stressed that the growing popularity of these giants due to their cost-efficiency has downplayed various concerns, including dangers of fire incidents and groundings which are very challenging, if not impossible to handle at the moment.
“Box-cargoes often contain a wide range of hazardous and toxic substances, and it can take time to identify and locate dangerous cargoes that are particularly vulnerable to fire,” the association said. “Because of wrong declaration of dangerous goods,a crew may end up applying an incorrect strategy for handling a specific fire scenario on board.
“In particular, if the fire is burning within a container, it is often allowed to burn out in a controlled manner, leaving more or less all containers in the hold with heat and smoke damage as there are no other methods of fighting a container ship fire below deck.
“And as vessels increase in size, cargo holds and the number of containers accommodated in each hold are equally increasing, subsequently endangering more containers to be damaged in the event of fire.” The association said that in the event of a grounding of a ULCV, equipment to lighten such a vessel can hardly be found.