Singapore’s Transport Safety Investigation Bureau (TSIB) has uncovered a series of errors which contributed to the fatal fire on board the Singapore-flagged 15,226 teu containership, Maersk Honam, on 6 March 2018.
Five crew members on the ABS-classed vessel subsequently perished in one of the worst shipboard fires in recent decades.
The 102-page TSIB report details how a fire broke out at about 1945, local time, on board the vessel, laden with 7,560 containers as it crossed the Arabian Sea en route from Singapore to Suez. The underdeck fire in cargo hold No. 3 was tackled by the crew, first with boundary cooling and then with carbon dioxide, but the fire had taken hold. A distress signal was sent, and the crew abandoned ship at about 2215 hrs.
Attempts to extinguish the fire continued for five days. When the salvage team boarded the stricken vessel on March 10, they found that the extent of the fire through cargo hold Nos. 1,2 and 3, and the ship’s accommodation meant that vessel was unfit to proceed. The Maersk Honam’s owners arranged for the vessel to be towed to the UAE as a port of refuge.
The severity of the fire meant that the investigation team could not conclusively determine the cause of the fire, according to the TSIB report. However, it is most likely to have begun in a cargo of sodium dichloroisocyanurate dihydrate (SDID), found in dry bleaches, dishwashing compounds, cleaning products, swimming pool disinfectants and sewage treatment products.
The investigation team discovered that the secondary hazards relating to the chemical decomposition and instability of SDID has not been identified in the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code. The cargo therefore fell into the Code’s Class 9 category, which covers goods that are less dangerous than those in Class 5.1, despite SDID having similar properties to cargoes in the more serious category.
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