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Maersk changes dangerous cargo stowage

DENMARK's Maersk Line will no longer stow certain categories of dangerous cargo next to crew accommodations or anywhere below deck across its fleet, acting upon the findings of a review of stowage procedures that was carried out in the wake of the deadly fire aboard the Maersk Honam in March.

The cause of the blaze that started on March 6 and claimed the lives of five crew members has not yet been determined and the carrier admits the investigation may end up being inconclusive, reported IHS Media.

During the review, the company found that the existing rules governing the stowage of dangerous goods cargoes, which create their own oxygen and can't be extinguished using standard carbon dioxide-based on-board firefighting equipment, to be inadequate and has implemented new procedures fleet-wide.

The company said cargo covered under the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code will no longer be stowed next to crew accommodations or the main propulsion plant, which is defined as the risk zone with the lowest risk tolerance.

"All cargo aboard Maersk Honam was accepted as per the requirements of the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code and stowed on board the vessel accordingly," said head of fleet technology Ole Graa Jakobsen.

Maersk is seeking to have the findings of the review that was undertaken with the support of the classification society ABS implemented industrywide. "Containership fires are a problem for our entire industry and we intend to share and discuss our learnings from this thorough review within relevant industry forums," Mr Jakobsen said.

Following several high-profile containership fires and the increasing size of containerships overall, attention is increasingly focused on the issue of fires given the risk to crews, cargoes and ships. One issue is that goods go undeclared, leaving the carrier blind as to what cargo is being loaded on its ship.

Maritime risk expert Peregrine Storrs-Fox of the underwriter TT Club told the JOC Container Trade Europe conference in Hamburg earlier this month that an estimated 150,000 misdeclared containers of dangerous goods are shipped on containerships annually.

"Each one is effectively a ticking time bomb," he said. Another issue is properly declared but poorly stowed dangerous goods within the container.

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