MARITIME SAFETY: Marine insurers seek more info on container content

As the world grapples with safety security challenges, marine insurers are pressing for more information to be provided about the content of containers as part of efforts to improve ship safety.
Containership safety is high on the agenda of an International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) political forum that aims to influence organisations such as the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and the European Union (EU).
Last year’s devastating mid-Atlantic fire on the 6,732 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) MSC Flaminia (built 2001) has highlighted at least a couple of the key issues, such as potential misdeclaration of shipping containers, the fire fighting capability of containerships, especially larger vessels, and the difficulty of damaged ships finding ports of refuge.

There is already work underway at IMO to address the question of overweight containers, but IUMI would like to see additional focus on the content of boxes to ensure that hazardous cargoes are correctly declared.
The difficulty the MSC Flaminia had in obtaining permission to transit the national waters of several European states to a German discharge port also highlighted the reluctance of governments to provide assistance to damaged ships, illustrating the issue was wider than just ports of refuge.
Containership safety and ports of refuge are among 17 items on the agenda of the IUMI political forum headed by the Managing Director of Cefor, the Nordic Marine Insurance Association, Helle Hammer.
Other issues include cruiseship and ferry safety in the wake of the Costa Concordia, with IUMI backing IMO efforts to improve regulations relating to ship stability, rapid capsize and loss of buoyancy, as well as work to make groundings less likely.

IUMI President and a Norwegian Hull Club Executive, Ole Wikborg, highlighted that the Costa Concordia appeared to have fewer watertight compartments than the Titanic – just two compared to five.
IUMI is to press the Paris MOU, port state control organisation, to provide further disclosure of information on the Equasis internet database of information it is gathering on the risk profile of ships and of company performance.
The agenda of the IUMI Political Committee includes the introduction of a mandatory “polar code” for the increasing number of Arctic voyage and a range of other well known industry issues such as the liquefaction of certain bulk carrier cargoes, potential damage to main engines from use of cleaner low sulphur fuels, piracy, sanctions against Iran and Syria.
Wikborg said that he had “great expectations”for the political forum’s efforts to ensure underwriters had more influence through lobbying and liaison work on issues such as ship safety.

The IUMI Executive Committee recently met in London, United Kingdom (UK), setting a theme of Marine insurers building resilience and defining a sustainable future for the organisation’s high profile annual conference to be held in London in September.
Wikborg said that 2012 was “a real bad year for marine insurance” in contrast to the general insurance market with big cargo and recreational boating claims from hurricane Sandy as well as the loss of the Costa Concordia.
“We are using the words resilience to reflect what we think is necessary for us to have a future. We need to build our business models to ensure we have a sustainable business going forward but that is something easily said but not so easy to achieve,” said Wikborg.
“We are emphasising that marine insurance is necessary to support global trade,” he added.

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