Maersk releases statement on probe into fatal 2018 fire aboard containership in Arabian Sea

Photo: Indian Coast Guard

A.P. Moller-Maersk recently issued a statement following the investigation into the fire incident that had left five crewmembers dead on the containership Maersk Honam in the Arabian Sea in 2018.

On March 6 of that year, while en route in the Arabian Sea towards Suez, a major fire occurred in cargo hold number three on Maersk Honam.

The crew engaged in firefighting, which included releasing the vessel’s CO2 system into the cargo hold. That, however, did not stop the fire, and it eventually resulted in five crewmembers losing their lives.

The vessel suffered extensive structural damage in the accommodation block and forepart and was towed to Jebel Ali in the UAE during the salvage operation.

Subsequently the vessel was rebuilt in Korea before returning to operations in August 2019 under the name Maersk Halifax.

The magnitude of the incident prompted a detailed investigation by the Transport Safety Investigation Bureau (TSIB) of the Singaporean Ministry of Transport in addition to Maersk’s own comprehensive investigation into the incident and subsequent initiatives to improve fire safety across the Maersk fleet above international requirements.

Maersk added that the fire on Maersk Honam prompted extensive efforts to avoid similar incidents, among other initiatives introducing new guidelines for stowing dangerous goods on the company’s vessels. In relation to this, the company has been awaiting the conclusion of the investigation by the TSIB to further understand how fire safety can be improved across its own fleet and more broadly in the industry.

The investigation identified that the most likely source of the fire is to be found amongst a block of 54 containers with IMO Class 9 Dangerous Cargo stowed inside cargo hold number three in the forepart of the vessel.

According to the report, the cause of the fire is not conclusive, but highly likely to originate from the decomposition of dangerous cargo generating intense heat, enabling the fire to rapidly develop out of control.

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