By Adaku Onyenucheya
Major global shipping lines have collaborated with a technology firm to develop an innovation that will boost safety in transporting cargo and reduce growing risks of container loss at sea.
The partners, which include, Safetytech Accelerator, Evergreen Line, HMM, Maersk, the Offen Group, Ocean Network Express (ONE), Seaspan and Lloyd’s Register, launched ‘Safetytech Accelerator Cargo Fire and Loss Innovation Initiative (CFLII)’ to reduce cargo fire and loss at sea.
Shippers have been counting losses in millions of dollars due to fire incidents onboard ships and containers falling into the sea.
According to figures from the World Shipping Council (WSC) report, about 3,133 containers were lost overboard vessels between 2020 and 2021 compared to 779 in the previous period, an increase of 400 per cent.
Also, in its 2022 safety and shipping review, analysis by major insurer Allianz Global Corporate and Specialty, showed there were over 70 reported fire incidents on board container vessels in the past five years, with growing risks faced by car carriers transporting electric vehicles using batteries.
According to the partners, CFLII is a collaborative technology acceleration programme that will help tackle the issue by shaping joint requirements, identifying technology solutions, undertaking carefully designed trials and developing best practices and recommendations.
They noted that the scale and breadth of the challenges facing operators are growing and continue to evolve, such as the increasing carriage of lithium-ion batteries either in containers or within electric vehicles on car carriers and the increasing growth in complexity and size of modern container vessels.
The Managing Director of Safetytech Accelerator, Maurizio Pilu, said the firm’s mission is to help solve some of the most complex safety, risk and resilience challenges in the industry through open innovation and collaboration.
Pilu said eliminating cargo fire and loss is a big challenge in the maritime industry, noting that while accidents are thankfully infrequent, their impact can be extremely large.
Pilu explained that the initiative has a broad scope encompassing three significant topics of concern, which are onboard cargo control, including whether cargo has been properly, loaded, secured and monitored during transit.
He said others are the ability to detect fire onboard and stop its spread through effective onboard response, particularly on large container ships and car carriers as well as challenges created by the increasing scale of vessels.
Director, Global Containerships Segment, Lloyd’s Register and Chair of Maritime Cargo Fire and Loss Initiative, Nick Gross, expressed excitement to start this initiative, working alongside the anchor partners to adopt innovative technology for the prevention of cargo fires onboard, thus, helping to make container shipping a safer operation.
Gross said the objective of the initiative resonates with the mandate to improve the safety of ships and crew, as well as protect the marine ecosystem.
The President, Evergreen Line, Eric Hsieh, said the shipping line is committed to talent training to help provide a safe and high-quality working environment for its seaman.
The Chief Maritime Officer of HMM, Kim Gyou-bong, said this collaborative initiative with major industry partners is expected to significantly reduce the risk of safety-related accidents.
He assured that the shipping line would give top priority to providing more reliable and differentiated shipping services by securing the safety of its ships and transported cargo.
The Head of Marine Standards and DPA of Maersk, Aslak Ross, said the main root cause for cargo fires on container ships is the integrity of dangerous goods throughout the supply chain, noting that it is a problem that can only be improved through industry-wide solutions.
“The Safetytech Accelerator Cargo Fire and Loss Innovation Initiative is a good platform to bring stakeholders together to find new effective solutions to the problem of cargo fires,” he said.
The Managing Director of ONE, Hiroki Tsujii, said, given the rapid changes in both the shipping industry and the nature of cargo shipped, the firm is careful to not be complacent and continuously seeks ways to improve its capabilities.