Fire Aboard Maersk Containership in Piraeus Raises EV Cargo Concerns

Fire Aboard Maersk Containership in Piraeus Raises EV Cargo Concerns

Posted on Feb 09, 2024 at 10:02 PM

Aboard an AP Moller-Maersk container ship, a minor fire was extinguished by the Greek Coast Guard. However, the vessel remains docked in Piraeus port, awaiting inspections before resuming its journey. Concerns arise due to reports suggesting that the container involved may have contained a used electric vehicle.

The containership, named Luna Maersk, has a capacity of 4,258 TEU, flies the Hong Kong flag, and is insured by Britannia P&I while classified by Lloyd's Register. On October 2, it was loaded in Piraeus, Greece, en route to Thessaloniki, Greece. The ship's route includes stops in Algeciras, Spain, and Tanger Med, Morocco, before reaching its final destination. Departing with a 26-person crew and 1,517 containers, the ship experienced the fire approximately 12.5 nautical miles north of Kea Island in the Aegean Sea, as the Hellenic Coast Guard's Joint Search and Rescue Coordination Centre reported.

Though no assistance was initially requested, the decision was made for the ship to return to Piraeus, where two Coast Guard patrol boats met it. As in Greek press photos, crew members used fire hoses and a fire boat to cool the affected container. Fortunately, there were no reported injuries.

Upon anchoring in Piraeus, the damaged container was removed and placed in a secure storage location, where fire crews continued to douse it with water. Inspectors were expected to visit the vessel and open the container for examination.

The Central Port Authority of Piraeus could not confirm the Luna Maersk container's contents, which may contain an old electric vehicle. Therefore, the ship remains in Piraeus until it receives clearance to resume sailing.

In light of incidents like this, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) collaborates with the International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) on a project to enhance the IMO's firefighting capabilities and prevent container ship fires based on a collaborative effort to verify the hazards of cargoes loaded inside containers which are usually loaded at the point of production. 

Munich Re, an insurer, has also initiated a program in partnership with the National Cargo Bureau (NCB) and the US Coast Guard to address cargo fire issues in shipping. This initiative combines Munich Re's predictive analytics with data from hazardous cargo inspections conducted by the Coast Guard and NCB.

Maritime transport and firefighting face new challenges with the introduction electric vehicles powered by lithium-ion batteries. Recent incidents, such as the fire on the North Sea ship Fremantle Highway, which resulted in the loss of one seafarer's life and the revelation of 500 new electric cars onboard, highlight these challenges. The US Coast Guard has even warned about the risks of lithium-ion battery intrusion following Hurricane Ian's flooding in South Florida.

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