At the recent International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) Conference, which is one of the biggest gatherings of marine underwriters, new measures for combatting fire safety were presented.  Boxship fires, in particular, pose a huge problem and occur far too frequently and, IUMI has called for container operators to install firebreaks and sprinkler systems on all ships to help protect the lives of seamen and reduce the financial costs to insurers.  The problem is whether the operators will want to bear the cost of installing these measures.

Resolve Marine Salvage Master, Nick Sloane presented an unprecedented three keynote papers at the conference and joined major insurers in this new bid to change the rules.  The move by IUMI, under the leadership of Uwe-Peter Schieder, head of marine and loss prevention at German Insurance Association (GDV), stated that the current rules under the Safety of Life at Sea (Solas) convention are not suitable for either boxships or ultra large container ships.  GDV also stated that with the ultra large container ships, the danger of a fire spreading is greatly increased.

The IUMI wants to establish a series of barriers to help stop fires from spreading and these barriers would not affect the cargo capacity.   Using sea-water sprinkler systems, a series of water walls would help contain fires while cooling the ship at the same time.  Further measures come in the form of fire detection and monitoring.

Capt. Nicholas Sloane
Capt. Nicholas Sloane

Nick Sloane urged operators to respond to this move and take action to help protect the lives of their employees.  While he believes the proposal may not be taken up by the operators, he said they should install a few fire breaks on ships at least because crews’ lives are at risk.  He adds: “And if these measures are not taken up, will these ships then become uninsurable altogether?