Grimaldi Group Calls for Tighter Cargo Controls After Fires

Grande Europa pictured May 15, 2019 in the Mediterranean Sea after fires broke out in two of the vehicle decks
Grande Europa pictured May 15, 2019 in the Mediterranean Sea after fires broke out in two of the vehicle decks. Photo: Salvamento Maritimo

Italian shipping company Grimaldi Group has issued a statement addressing this week’s fire on board the Grimaldi Lines vehicle carrier Grande Europa in the Mediterranean, calling for more stringent controls and regulations following a spate of recent incidents in which cargo caught fire.

The fire on board the roll-on/roll-off vehicle carrier Grande Europa started on May 15 as the vessel was underway approximately 25 miles from Palma de Mallorca. The fire resulted in the evacuation of 15 of the 25 crew members on board with no reported injuries. The fire was subsequently put out and the vessel towed to Palma.

Grimaldi reported that the vessel was loaded with 1,687 mostly new vehicles, such as cars, vans, trucks and excavators, and 49 containers containing mainly food products.

In addressing the incident, the group said that preliminary investigations have shown there were actually two seperate fires, both of which broke out in vehicles stowed on board:

“The alarm was given by the crew at 00:45 a.m., due to a fire broken out on deck 3, which was completely extinguished by the crew itself after about 45 minutes. At 04:00 a.m., a second fire was located on deck 8, which spread to deck 9; also here, the crew promptly intervened with the firefighting equipment on board,” the statement said.

This week’s incident follows a fire on board the Grimaldi Lines roll-on/roll-off containership Grande America in the Bay of Biscay back in March. All crew abandoned ship before the vessel eventually sank. The fire in that case is believed to have started in a single container and spread to others on deck.

In response to two incidents and others, the company is now calling for tighter controls and regulations related to the transport of dangerous cargo at sea.

“Following the umpteenth case of a fire that broke out on vehicles transported by cargo vessels, the Grimaldi Group launches an appeal to introduce more stringent controls and regulations on cargo sea transport, not only for rolling units but also for containers,” Grimaldi Group said.

“Notably, with reference to rolling freight, the Grimaldi Group requests that there be more controls on car batteries, which often cause short-circuits on board vessels, as well as in port terminals. Moreover, it calls for the total prohibition of the presence of personal effects in second-hand vehicles, embarked on ro/ro vessels.

“Finally, with regard to containers, the International Maritime Organisation is urged to make mandatory the certification by a classification society of the correct stuffing of containers carrying dangerous goods,” the group said.