Loss prevention measures must keep pace with shipping innovations – IUMI

Shipping continues to innovate in terms of vessel capacities, greener technologies, more modern operating practices, and the way in which goods are being carried, but these changes bring new risks which need to be addressed, warns the International Union of Marine Insurance.

At this week’s IUMI conference in Edinburgh, Pascal Dubois, chair of IUMI’s loss prevention committee, said: “The sheer number of containers being carried on ships of 24,000 TEU or more means that, statistically, there is a greater chance of an individual cargo combusting.
“Sadly, there have been many fire-related incidents on-board large containerships in recent years. Tackling fires on such large vessels is an ongoing concern and a significant body of research is underway to find workable solutions to both fire-fighting and fire prevention. IUMI has been one of the prime-movers at IMO to address this.”

Global vehicle transportation at sea has been in the limelight in recent years. High profile casualties, such as Grande Europa, Felicity Ace, and more recently Grande California, Grande Costa d’Avorio and Freemantle Highway, underline the reality where loss prevention methods need to be aligned and improved. Aside from the tragic loss of life, financial losses running to many hundreds of millions of dollars are often the result. However, Dubois urges caution when apportioning blame and wants the industry to rely on the science when it comes to preventative measures.

He added: “Although we have witnessed a number of car carrier fires lately, none have been found, conclusively, to have been started by an electric vehicle. We must take care to understand the cause and nature of any vehicle fire if we are to implement the required loss control measures to extinguish the fire and, as importantly, prevent them from happening.

“Research shows that EV fires are no more dangerous than those caused by internal combustion engine vehicles – the growth rate, the peak heat release, and the total energy released is no different. That’s because most of the fire’s energy comes from sources within the vehicle, such as plastics, and not the battery. However, we must not ignore the potential for thermal runaway where the battery may self-heat and re-ignite. The risks are not necessarily greater but they are different and this is where we need a new and different approach.”

Dubois believes that loss prevention is a virtuous circle including assureds, brokers, underwriters and regulators: “We can’t innovate without recognizing new and different risks and then implementing adequate loss control measures. Insurance and loss prevention go hand-in-hand – you can’t have one without the other.”

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