Major shipping carriers unite to launch cargo safety initiative

Several of the world’s largest maritime cargo carriers are joining forces with a non-profit technology accelerator to launch a new innovation initiative to reduce cargo loss at sea. The program will address the growing scale and breadth of challenges operators face as technology evolves and the size and complexity of modern containerships increase.

Safetytech Accelerator is a London-headquartered non-profit established by Lloyd’s Register to focus on safety and risk in industrial sectors. 

The “technology accelerator” recently launched its Cargo Fire & Loss Innovation Initiative (CFLII)  in collaboration with COSCO, Evergreen Line, HMM, Maersk, the Offen Group, ONE (Ocean Network Express), and Seaspan as Anchor Partners to reduce the incidence and impact of cargo fires and loss overboard. 

“We’re excited to start this initiative, working alongside the Anchor Partners to trial and adopt innovative technology for the prevention of cargo fires onboard, thus helping to make container shipping a safer operation,” said Nick Gross, Global Containerships Segment Director at Lloyd’s Register (LR), and Chair of the Maritime Cargo Fire and Loss Initiative. 

“From LR side, the objective of the initiative resonates with our mandate to improve the safety of ships and crew, as well as protect the marine ecosystem. We believe it is vital to work together to tackle the increasing risk of cargo fires onboard containerships.”

According to Lloyd’s, the CFLII has three significant topics of concern – onboard cargo control (whether cargo has been properly loaded, secured and monitored during transit); the ability to detect fire onboard and stop its spread through effective onboard response, particularly on large containerships and car carriers; and the challenges created by the increasing scale of vessels.

“Despite improvements in the design of modern cargo vessels and the implementation of new statutory instruments to ensure safe operations, the consequences of onboard cargo fires and any associated loss is growing,” Lloyd’s said in a statement. 

“Over recent years we have witnessed increasing fleet investments in larger and more technologically advanced vessels, particularly in the container segment. At the same time, we have seen the continuing consequences of cargo non-declaration/mis-declaration and the emerging impact of high-risk cargoes such as lithium-ion batteries behind the growing number of cargo fires.”

Minimizing the loss of cargo overboard “has been a high agenda item amongst significant shipping stakeholders for a number of years with multiple industry activities underway to prevent the loss of cargo, primarily from container shipping,” it added. 

“The environmental impact of lost containers and their potentially damaging cargos have never been under greater societal scrutiny.

Unfortunately, industry data indicates an increasing trend in the number of container losses at sea and continued focus is needed to address the situation,” added Lloyd’s.”

The program will help the major companies shape joint requirements, identify technological solutions, undertake carefully designed trials, and develop best practices and recommendations. 

“The safety of our people is always of highest importance,” said Aslak Ross, Head of Marine Standards & DPA at Maersk. “Reducing the risk of cargo fires is accordingly a key priority for Maersk and the industry at large. The main root cause for cargo fires on containerships is the integrity of dangerous goods throughout the supply chain. 

Therefore, he said, “it is a problem that can only be improved through industry wide solutions and for that reason we are a strong believer in sharing of learnings across the industry to improve safety.”

Hiroki Tsujii, managing director of ONE, concurred. “Given the rapid changes in both the shipping industry as well as the nature of cargo shipped, though ONE’s record of cargo fires are minimal, we are careful to not be complacent and continuously seek ways to improve our capabilities,” he said. 

“Hence, we see the value of efforts such as this Cargo Fire & Loss Innovation Initiative, which enables collaboration across industry stakeholders and provides the opportunity to share, learn and improve.”