Several cargo fires have apparently been caused by self-ignition of Calcium Hypochlorite, a powerful oxidising agent, including Hanjin Pennsylvania, CMA Djakarta, DG Harmony, Sea Elegance and last year’s Charlotte Maersk incident. Now the International Group of P&I Clubs has issued a Frequency Asked Questions, FAQ, on the chemical through its members.
Says Det Norsk Veritas: “Container fires have received a lot of press coverage in recent years. Huge fires have caused big ships to be abandoned and lost, such as the Hanjin Pennsylvania in November 2002, and the Hyundai Fortune in 2006. The fires are often associated with problem cargoes like calcium hypochlorite, an oxidizing agent that will self ignite under given conditions. Extinguishing such fires can be a real problem as oxygen is released by the substance when burning, making the fire self sustaining”.
Following the fire aboard Charlotte Maersk, Maersk stopped accepting calcium hypochlorite for shipment from China.
Circulars about the dangers of calcium hypochlorite were issued in 1999 and 2000. Says the London Club: “…given the passing of time since those circulars in the immediate aftermath of particular incidents, the London P&I Club and all other International Group members wish to raise awareness to the wider maritime industry of the hazards and precautions associated with Calcium Hypochlorite”.
Charlotte Maersk crew honored after fire
After several weeks battling a serious fire on the foredeck of their vessel, the crew of Charlotte Maersk share some of what went on and their thoughts on the experience.