Chemical Fire on ‘X-Press Pearl’ Under Control Off Colombo, Sri Lanka

Photo: Sri Lanka Port Authority

The fire on board the X-Press Pearl is reported under control at an anchorage off the coast of Colombo, Sri Lanka, but fire-fighting efforts are continuing, according to the vessel’s operator.

The Sri Lankan Navy continued its response to the incident over the weekend with three tugs from the Sri Lankan Ports Authority on site conducting cooling operations on containers near the fire. At times, the fire flared up with visible flames (see photo below) coming from containers above deck, the Navy said over the weekend.

The fire on board the X-Press Pearl was first reported Thursday as the ship was awaiting entry to Colombo harbor at an offshore anchorage.

The Navy said the ship is carrying 1,486 containers, including 25 tons of Nitric Acid and other chemicals which it had loaded at the port of Hazira, India on May 15. Preliminary investigations indicate the fire started due to a chemical reaction of the hazardous cargo.

All 25 crew members are reported safe, the ship’s operator reported Monday. Meanwhile a salvage team from SMIT has boarded the vessel for an assessment. 

“Fire/smoke still remain on board the vessel but is currently under control. More firefighting tugs have been deployed and they will continue to fight the fire. The salvage team with fire experts and firefighters are already on board the vessel and are carrying out the risk assessment. They have already taken steps to stop the spreading of fire into other areas,” X-Press Feeders said in its update.

“We have been advised that special firefighting equipment will arrive tomorrow. We therefore remain hopeful that the fire will be put out by the salvage team at the soonest time possible,” it added.

Source: G Captain, 24 May 2021

CINS reveals cargo mis-declaration and packing issues

CINS Cargo Incident Visual GraphicPoor or incorrect packing accounts for 37 per cent of cargo incidents in the supply chain, according to data released by the Cargo Incident Notification System (CINS).

And 24 per cent of incidents cases are due to mis-declaration of the cargo, it found. The organisation is managed by the Container Owners Association (COA), and was set up by members from five of the COA’s top 20 liner operators; CMA CGM, Evergreen Line, Hapag-Lloyd, Maersk Line and the Mediterranean Shipping Company.

It was created to capture key data, after an increase in incidents that regularly disrupt operations and endanger lives, property or the environment.

CINS’ analysis revealed that 80 per cent of substances involved in cargo incidents are dangerous goods, with half relating to leakage and a further quarter announced mis-declared.

It also showed that incidents relating to mis-declared cargo have increased significantly within the first four months of 2013, compared to the previous 18 months, which the company says has led it to aspire to identify ways to make the supply chain safer.

“We have identified that 24 per cent of all incidents involve mis-declaration and this is probably the first time that this ‘iceberg’ risk has been quantified, said Reinhard Schwede, chairman of CINS.

“Poor or incorrect packaging are persistent causes, accounting for almost 40 per cent of incidents over nearly two years. This is all the more concerning when we recognise that more than a third of the incidents involve corrosive cargoes, which by nature will react with other substances.

“With these findings, the CINS Organisation will engage with enforcement agencies, competent authorities and the IMO to gain support for the relevant changes to legislation or other safe practice recommendations.” Source: Container Owner Association

The trouble with Safety Sheets

The TT Club says that the abuse of safety data sheets (SDS) for cargo bookings is “uncomfortably frequent” leading to the view that shipping executives feel “surrounded by criminals”.

The following expose is no less pertinent to Customs risk-profilers.

A recent TT Club claim relating to a fire onboard a ship highlighted a number of issues. The insurance expert argues that differing global format standards and the ease of creating “viable” SDS are only serving to make cargo screening more difficult.

What’s really in the box asks the TT Club.  Photo: Port of Hamburg (Credit - Port Strategy)

What’s really in the box asks the TT Club. Photo: Port of Hamburg (Credit – Port Strategy)

In the claim, a cargo was booked, packed, declared and documented by a shipper as ‘Hookah burner (C.Tablets)’. When the ship caught fire at sea, significant costs were incurred by the ship because of mis-declared cargo, which was in fact activated carbon/charcoal.

Worryingly, when this was investigated further, the shipper had produced two safety data sheets – one was correct, but the other suggested that activated carbon was not considered to be a dangerous good.

TT Club argues that the situation is made far more difficult by the lack of consistency between the various governments about when SDS should be reviewed – Australia stipulates every five years, Canada every three and the EU Regulation recommends checking at “regular intervals”.

Peregrine Storrs-Fox, risk management director, TT Club, told Port Strategy: “We’ve identified two [problem]areas – firstly at the point of booking/contracting with a carrier and secondly post event. Conversations with a number of liner shipping companies confirm that the information given at the time of booking/contracting is frequently suspect. In one instance a single SDS had been presented for about 50 different cargoes over a period.”

Although this is an issue between shipper and carrier, which includes forwarders/logistics operators, there is wider issue here for port operators. During an incident, the port may be supplied with SDS in order to respond appropriately – so there is a risk associated with that too.

The advice to freight forwarders, operators and carriers from the Club is to “Be constantly vigilant and question anything that seems strange or suspicious”. The penalties for non-compliance can be severe. Source: