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Spate of Fires Has Shipping Industry Looking at How Dangerous Goods Are

Spate of Fires Has Shipping Industry Looking at How Dangerous Goods Are
Costas Paris Nov. 24, 2019

Report follows a spate of fires on big vessels at sea that executives say aren’t fully investigated, undermining prevention efforts
A large share of the dangerous-goods shipments on international cargo ships were mislabeled, improperly handled and carried other safety risks, according to an industry study undertaken after a spate of fires on big, ocean-going vessels.

Fires at sea have crippled several big cargo ships over the past two years, and shipping-safety experts say complicated rules and lax investigations are creating a roadblock to finding the causes of the blazes and taking safety measures.

Vessel owners believe many of the fires are caused by potentially dangerous shipments being loaded without notice, and the investigation by the independent National Cargo Bureau suggests there are significant gaps in how the goods are handled, from paperwork to onboard stowage.

More than half the containers NCB, a New York-based not-for-profit group that assists the U.S. Coast Guard with maritime safety oversight, targeted in a yearlong survey of shipping operations fell short of marine industry fire-safety standards, the group said.

“The figures on how much improperly stowed or misdeclared cargo was in the boxes were shocking,” NCB President Ian Lennard said.

The NCB probe was launched after a fire in March 2018 crippled the Maersk Honam, a giant container ship operated by A.P. Moeller-Maersk A/S, and killed five of its 27 crew in the Arabian Sea. The front third of the ship was torched in a fire that burned for weeks.