Class societies and owners going above regulations to improve ship fire safety

Firefighters stand in the smoke on a container ship in Hamburg, Germany. Credit: DANIEL BOCKWOLDT/dpa

Classification societies and shipowners are going beyond regulation requirements in firefighting capabilities on container ships. But to improve maritime safety, the causes of fires on board must also be dealt with at the logistics level

Fires on board vessels remain a consistent and perilous issue in the shipping industry. Data from the State of Maritime Safety (SoMS) report, published by IHS Markit in April 2020, showed that total losses due to fire or explosions between 2015 and 2019 averaged at 30.2 vessels a year. Furthermore, the size of vessels lost to fires and explosions is slowly growing: 196,836 gt in 2019, compared with 156,287 gt in 2015. The uptick of incidents involving larger vessels has raised concerns over the effectiveness of fire detection and prevention systems available on board.

As larger container vessels continue to be built, classification societies and shipowners are proactively developing new and more efficient firefighting capabilities to combat the fire risks they pose. In February 2020, DNV GL launched its new FCS fire notation for container ships at a press briefing in London, the United Kingdom. The notation goes beyond current Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention requirements, which specify minimum standards for ships to ensure safety, and pushes the issue of fires on board to the forefront.

This is an excerpt from a feature in the July edition of SAS, for more in-depth features and analysis please subscribe here.