ABS Issues Guidance for Fighting Container Fires

Maersk Honam Fire
The MV Maersk Honam on fire in the Arabian Sea, March 8, 2018. Photo: Indian Coast Guard

International classification society the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) has published guidance to address fire-fighting and safety systems of cargo holds of containerships following a series of high-profile incidents.

The guidance specifies the ABS requirements for addressing fire safety in four key areas, including fire-fighting for containers stowed on deck, fire-fighting for containers stowed below, fire safety of the deckhouse and container hold flooding as a measure for fire-fighting.

The notations, which go above and beyond current SOLAS and related industry regulations, address things such as early fire detection, more efficient fire suppression, better protection of crew, and the safety considerations associated with cargo hold flooding as a means of fire-fighting, according to ABS.

“Container Carriers have grown much larger in recent years and the volume of cargo carried has expanded significantly. In addition, the nature of the cargo has changed. Fires involving containers, especially with the volume and type of cargo now being carried, are becoming more frequent and can present a significant risk to the safety of the crew and the vessel. Aligned with the ABS safety mission, we address this issue and provide guidance for the development of robust designs that are better suited to address this key industry challenge.” said ABS Gareth Burton, Vice President of Technology.

The guidance from ABS follows a series of high-profile fires that started in the cargo holds of ships including the Maersk Honam, Yantian Express, Grande America and APL Vancouver, among other incidents.