Improper cargo arrangement poses a risk of causing ship fires

01 January 2023

Wednesday, November 16, 2022, KM. Mutiara Timur 1 experienced a severe fire in the waters of Karangasem Regency. Ship fire incidents need to be given considerable attention in the maritime sector. Based on investigation data from the National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT), there were 68 fire cases recorded from 2007 to 2022. Ship fires can occur on various types, sizes, and routes of operation under various conditions, leading to losses for humans, ships, and surrounding properties.

Ships are transportation vehicles with a high risk of fire incidents. Like the case of KM. Mutiara Timur 1, which was suspected to catch fire due to issues with chemical cargo. Several parts of the ship can cause fires, including the ship’s machinery systems (main engine, auxiliary engine, pumps), fuel systems, human activities (crew and passengers), propulsion systems, ship electrical installations, cargo control systems, cargo, vehicles loaded on board, or other external causes.

KM. Mutiara Timur 1 Terbakar di Selat Bali

KM. Mutiara Timur 1 Fires at Bali Strait (2022). Photo: Antara

Cargo can also be a cause of ship fires, as seen in container ships. According to KNKT investigations, container ships accounted for 7% of the total ship fires in Indonesia from 2007 to 2022. Container ship fires often start within the containers/cargo, which can be caused by non-declaration or misdeclaration of hazardous cargo, such as self-igniting charcoal, chemicals, and batteries. Misdeclaration of cargo occurs when containers/cargo are packed and stored incorrectly on board, making it difficult to detect and extinguish fires.

International Union of Marine Insurance Group on container ship fire safety has made recommendations to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) regarding improving fire detection and firefighting capabilities on container ships. These recommendations are also supported by the implementation of IMDG Codes for the stowage of hazardous cargo on ships.

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