German authority report suggests containers on two ships caught fire probably from self-heating

The German Federal Bureau of Maritime Casualty Investigation has released its reports about two non-connected fires on container ships. The MSC Katrina was in the Elbe estuary when the fire was detected on 20 November 2015. The second ship, the Ludwigshafen Express was in the Red Sea when fire was noticed during an inspection in February 2016.

The first incident
The MSC Katrina was located in the Elbe estuary when its smoke detection system discovered fire. As a result, the Central Command for Maritime Emergencies had the ability to deploy specially trained firefighters.

The fire was extinguished without causing damages to the ship, while there was only minor damage to the cargo. The container that the fire affected container charcoal and was located in a free-standing stack in the cargo hold, something that made it easier to put out the fire.

The second incident
Ludwigshafen Express was sailing in the Red Sea when fire broke out as something was noticed during an inspection. The crewmember had to deal with the fire completely on their own. The fire was reported on a container which was located directly on a hatch cover. Its location made it easier for the crew to tackle the fire quickly and effectively by using the equipment that was available onboard the ship.

The ship’s command did not know if the charcoal had passed the necessary test and it was declared as a dangerous cargo. The fire did not cause any damage to either the ship or the container.

Because the two incidents were similar to each other, the investigation on the two events was summarized in one report.

Probable cause
In his report, Dr. Krause said that it was not possible to determine if the properties of the cargo carried on the ship were hazardous. However, the cargo documents had no information if the cargo passed the tests for self-heating substances. These documents were accepted by the two ships, despite the fact they did not have that information.

Recommendations
BSU recommends the following:
– Ship-owners must issue guidelines to shippers for the structure of the documents required.
– Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure to call IMO to amend IMDG Code.
– Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure has to consider stowage requirements.
– Mediterranean Shipping Company has to state that self-heating substances should always be easily accessible.
– Orient Overseas Container Line has to forward information on cargo to partners, even if it does not constitute dangerous goods.

Read the report in full BSU-Charcoal-cargo-fire-on-the-containerships-MSC-Katrina-in-the-Elbe-estuary-on-20-November-2015-and-Ludwigshafen-Express-in-the-Red-Sea-on-21-February-2016-2018_05

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