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TT Club issues advice on dealing with container fires

To tackle a fire in a hold, TT Club notes a CO2 system will be installed if the ship is carrying dangerous goods.
To tackle a fire in a hold, TT Club notes a CO2 system will be installed if the ship is carrying dangerous goods.

According to TT Club, container fires are a far more regular occurrence than most people would realise. Statistics show there is a major container cargo fire at sea roughly every 60 days. So, tackling fires and subsequent investigations are complex and vitally important activities.

With increasing container ships size increases the risk of a fire incident increases too. Despite some regulatory and technical advances, the fact is that the ability to respond to a cargo-related fire at sea has not progressed as needed in recent times.

To tackle a fire in a hold, TT Club notes a CO2 system will be installed if the ship is carrying dangerous goods. The gas released from a CO2 system can displace the oxygen in the hold and smother the fire. However, for CO2 to be effective, the hold must be closed to retain the gas and prevent oxygen ingress.

If an incident has taken place in a container stowed on deck, water will be the only option available . Nevertheless, it is unlikely to extinguish a fire inside a container in the short term.

In addition, crew members should seek expert advice. The expert must provided with as much information as possible, including the location of the fire, the extent and description of the incident and, as a minimum, a copy of the cargo manifest.

Moreover, according to TT Club, if the fire is in a hold, flooding of the hold with water may be considered. This will require flooding to above the level of the containers involved and brings many additional problems. One of the potential problems is that there may be more damage results from the water than may have occurred from the fire.

As for the fire investigation, after an explosion or fire has happened, an investigation into the cause will be required. Most investigations follow a basic format. The starting point is often witness or electronic evidence. This involve gathering accounts of the events from the crew, including ‘where, when and what’. Photographs or videos of the early stages of an event are sometimes available.

Detection systems can also provide valuable information, such as where the smoke or fire was first detected. If the detection system is a gas extraction system samples or residues can be obtained from the inside of the extraction pipe work.

Once the available witness evidence is collected, an examination of the physical evidence will be conducted. This could provide directional indicators of blast and or fire movement and intensity.

During the physical examination, samples will be taken for laboratory analysis, the results of which may identify the cause of the event. This, however, can be very complex, TT Club concludes.

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The dangers of carrying nickel ore cargo and the associated risks are highlighted by The West of England P&I Club

Photo credit: Shipspotting
Photo credit: Shipspotting

The West of England P&I Club has warned operators and others involved of the dangers of carrying nickel ore. Carrying nickel ore can be dangerous, because of the risk of liquefaction of the cargo on passage when the moisture content is higher than the cargo’s Flow Moisture Point (FMP).

After a number of ships being lost, with liquefaction of their nickel ore cargoes suspected of being the cause, the West of England Club published a Notice some years ago addressing the Dangers of Carrying Nickel ore. This Notice is still in forced and was re-issued as No.13 2017/2018 – Dangers of Carrying Nickel Ore from Indonesia and the Philippines – Mandatory Notification Requirements (re-issued).

The Club reminds operators of the risk of liquefaction with this cargo, as showcased by the loss of the ‘Emerald Star’, which claimed the lives of 11 seafarers in October 2017.

In addition, the Club has been informed of a recent near miss incident involving a vessel which had loaded 55,000t of nickel ore at Languyan, Tawi-Tawi, the Philippines, bound for China. The vessel encountered several days of Beaufort Force 7 winds and rough seas just before arriving at the discharge port. High cargo hold bilge sounding levels were observed in some holds and a visual inspection found that the cargo in the forward two of the vessel’s five holds had started to liquefy.

Representative samples of the cargo were obtained after discharge and submitted for testing to determine Moisture Content and FMP, and the Transportable Moisture Limit (TML). FMP was determined by both the flow table test and the penetration test.

Testing also found that the moisture content of the cargo exceeded the FMP determined by both test methods by several percent and the cargo was unsafe for loading and carriage.

In order to mitigate the risk associated with loading this Group A cargo in the Philippines and Indonesia, the requirements of the schedule for nickel ore along with the guidance concerning cargoes that may liquefy in the IMSBC Code should be closely followed.

Finally, the Club’s notification and survey requirements as per Notice to Members No.13 2017/2018 and in the associated bye-law within the Rules: Carriage of Nickel Ore from Indonesia and the Philippines, must also be met.

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India set to construct National Maritime Heritage complex at Lothal

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi who asked the shipping ministry to build a maritime heritage complex in Gujarat
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi who asked the shipping ministry to build a maritime heritage complex in Gujarat

The Indian Ministry of Shipping, through its flagship programme Sagarmala, is closely working with Government of Gujarat state and other stakeholders to showcase India’s rich maritime heritage through development of a World Class Maritime Heritage Complex (NMHC) at Lothal in the state of Gujarat.

Preliminary work on design elements of the proposed heritage complex has been completed and consultations from experts are now under process.

In order to further plan and take the project forward, a one day consultation workshop was held at Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sanghralaya in Mumbai.

The discussion was centred on the plan options, themes, design vision, best strategies for the collection of artefacts and design approaches, etc.

The workshop was attended by officials from the Ministry of Shipping, Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Tourism, Maritime Boards, Archaeological Survey of India, Museum Heads, Maritime History Researchers, Universities, Research Institutes, Maritime Societies, private collectors and others who hold artefacts, objects and documents related to the maritime past of India.

Speaking on the occasion Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Director General, Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sanghralaya, Mumbai said that the development of the National Maritime Heritage Complex realizes our key need to preserve and showcase our rich maritime heritage. The Complex will help the younger generations to learn from our rich past.

In his address, D.K Rai, Director (Sagarmala) said that concrete efforts are being made to realize the vision of National Maritime Heritage Complex and emphasized that experience shared by maritime history experts will help in shaping the implementation plan.

The idea was mooted by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi who asked the shipping ministry to build a maritime heritage complex in Gujarat. The complex is likely to be built in public-private partnership and will also have a huge museum displaying India’s heritage of inland waterways and trade through water route.

Lothal is 85 kilometers away from Ahmedabad. Lothal was a major maritime activities centre of the Harappans civilization. It displays engineering standards used in creating an artificial dock that shows high standards of scientific and engineering skills, far more advanced than anywhere else in the world in 3rd millennium BCE.

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Shipping fears engine failures as industry switches to low sulphur fuel

By Ellen Milligan (Bloomberg). Add oil tankers breaking down at sea to the list of things shipping companies are worrying about as they brace for a once-in-a-generation overhaul to the kind of fuel the industry must consume.

From Jan. 1, 2020, the vast majority of the world’s merchant fleet will have to use fuel containing no more than 0.5 percent sulfur, down from 3.5 percent in most parts of the world today. The change is expected to upend both shipping and refining industries, with analysts forecasting higher oil prices, slower-sailing ships, and some observers even warning of risks to world trade.

Now more and more of the world’s largest shipping companies and trade groups, already mindful of spiralling costs, are saying there’s a safety risk too. Their primary worry is the lack of a single fuel type that complies with the rules. Since refineries across the world are coming up with different solutions to meet the sulfur-reduction target, owners say their ships’ engines could be damaged by inadvertently mixing incompatible products.

“This is, of course, a concern, and the marine fuels that can be used when the 2020 regulation is implemented are believed to be more unstable and contain other compounds than what is the case today,” said Harald Fotland, Chief Operating Officer at Odfjell SE, one of the world’s largest shippers of chemicals. “Therefore, we have to be even more cautious in selecting fuels.”

After years of deliberating, the 2020 start date for the new rules was set in October 2016 by the International Maritime Organization, the United Nations’ shipping agency. Vessels must lower sulfur emissions. Those with exhaust-gas cleaning systems that remove the pollutant will be able to keep burning existing products that are cheaper, but the equipment is expensive and takes up cargo space.

Dangerous Mix
The International Association of Independent Tanker Owners, the largest trade group for operators of ships moving everything from oil to gas to chemicals, is among those concerned.

While individual fuels may not be problematic, mixes could be dangerous, according to Dragos Rauta, technical director at the trade group better known as Intertanko.

“The way the different products work together can produce instability of fuel which can create sediments that can damage the pumps and engines eventually,” he said.

The issues could ultimately stop a ship’s engine, something that would be particularly dangerous in bad weather in busy shipping lanes close to land, according to Rauta.

Shipowners say extensive — and more frequent — testing will need to take place to ensure fuels are trusted, but that would take time and money at a time when fuel bills may well be rising anyway.

“This fuel oil will be sold under a specification which in theory should be okay but it appears there may be impurities in them, and these are damaging to our engines,” said Flemming Carlsen, Chief Operating Officer of d’Amico International Shipping SA, which runs a fleet of 57 vessels. “We would need to be content that the analysis has proven that this bunker fuel is okay to burn in the main engine.”

Supply Doubts
There’s also uncertainty about whether there will be enough blended fuel to go round. Some smaller ports may not have access to it, meaning companies including d’Amico will have to use a combination of diesel-like products and low-sulfur fuel oil on their journeys, taking care to ensure the two aren’t mixed.

The IMO’s rules are meant to curb a pollutant that has been linked to environmental issues like acid rain and health concerns including asthma. Shipping groups already complained about the non-standard nature of fuels, and their costs are expected to spiral. A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S, the worlds biggest container shipping line, anticipates a $2 billion increase in its annual fuel bill.

The IMO is in the process of producing guidelines to help the shipping industry with risk assessment and mitigation as well as procurement of compliant fuel, a spokesman said. There should be no risk from compliant fuels, he said.

The shipping industry got a taste of what the future might look like this year — albeit for unrelated reasons.

Hundreds of tankers in Houston, Malaysia and Singapore suffered damage since March as tainted fuel clogged filters and jammed injection pumps, Intertanko reported in August. Both Odfjell and Ardmore Shipping Corp. say they were affected.

In two cases, Odfjell had to remove the fuel on its ships, due to the impact the sludge had on their ability to inject fuel into the engines. The filters and purifiers became clogged on two of Ardmore’s vessels, one in Singapore and one off the U.S. Gulf. No material damage was done to the ships. Ardmore said it has stepped up testing as a result.

Cause for Concern
“This particular case does raise questions and concern towards the 0.5 percent quality discussion come 2020,” said Robert Hvide Macleod, chief executive officer at Frontline Management AS, the oil tanker business of Norway-born billionaire John Fredriksen. Frontline has been exposed to current contamination issues to a “minimal degree so far.”

The cause of this year’s issues was the combination of phenol and styrene contaminants which cause a very sticky form of deposit that can damage purifiers, heaters, filters, fuel pumps and injectors, according to the Standard Club, a provider of insurance. This can ultimately cause the main propulsion systems to stop.

Contamination issues which could happen with blending would likely be caused in a different way, with incompatible fuels mixing to become hazardous. But both are dangerous.

Paul Dean, a lawyer who specializes in marine issues at Holman Fenwick Willan in London, says the fuel-related damage this year shows there are vulnerabilities in fuel-testing systems, and that those issues will become more acute when refineries are selling new products in 2020.

“With the fuel that is available at the moment, and the problems which have come out of places like Singapore and Houston, there is concern about the expected increase in blending that’s due to take place and its increased potential for contaminated fuel to be imported,” said Dean.

© 2018 Bloomberg L.P

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New report on the human impact of autonomous ships published by IMarEST

In a major piece of research, perhaps one of the most detailed of its kind to be undertaken into the potential human impact of autonomous vessels to date, the IMarEST’s Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships Special Interest Group sought to gauge the potential impact of self-governing ships and plot out a new course for the shipping industry’s valued workforce.

Autonomous technologies could create a competitive advantage for shipping companies but adoption will vary significantly between market segments. This was one conclusion reached in an industry-wide investigation conducted by the IMarEST’s Marine Autonomous Surface Ships special interest group (MASS-SIG). An initial survey went on to inform a roundtable discussion which in turn formed the basis of a report: “Autonomous Shipping – Putting the Human Back in the Headlines”.

While only one in six believe that industry is fully geared up to exploit the autonomous or remote operation of commercial vessels in the immediate future, the general sentiment was that such technologies will deliver benefits over the long term. However, somewhat ironically, the success of unmanned ships will hinge ultimately on accommodating the human-in-the-loop.

MASS-SIG’s investigation blended quantitative analysis in the form of an online survey with qualitative analysis of the results in a roundtable discussion held during Singapore Maritime Week in April, with the support of BMT Defence and Security and Braemar, as well as the British Chamber of Commerce (Singapore) and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

Senior figures from several high-profile shipping companies, two major classification societies, shipyards, regulators, technology providers, academia and research groups, as well as representatives from both Singapore’s Maritime & Port Authority and its navy took part in the conversation.

The survey sought opinion on the drivers for autonomous technology; the business case for automation and remote operation; amenability to such solutions by vessel segment; the relationship between man and machine, and by extension the human element; societal acceptance; and workforce succession planning.

“We had more than 600 responses to the survey, providing us with a unique insight into current industry sentiment on an incipient – and often controversial – technology. This dataset was a keystone in the round-table, where industry leaders reflected on the results, and drew on their own experience and inject additional insight in order to validate and fortify the research,” commented Gordon Meadow, MASS-SIG Chair, IMarEST.

Interest in autonomous or remote vessel operation has arisen from the convergence of several technologies, including machine learning, new sensors, and improved connectivity at sea. Together, these systems could fundamentally transform the way ships operate in the future. But Meadow warns against a fixation on new hardware: “If fully realised, this technology will also transform the way the whole industry functions – and the way we will work with it.”

Building a better understanding of the impacts is necessary so as to measure the changes required in workforce capability, competency and training requirements so that those charged with managing and ensuring the safe operation of automated vessels are as effective as they can be.

The mapping of new skill-sets is a major part of MASS-SIG’s remit and the report produced highlights ways in which employers, organisations and regulators can work together to understand the skills required in the future and the training framework within which they will be taught.

Read the report in full: Autonomous Report

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