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  • Writer's pictureVegard Synnes

All eggs in one basket - Vessel fires a problem to address

Updated: Apr 28, 2023

The recent fire onboard the RoRo Carrier, The Felicity Ace, adds to a line of similar accidents over the past years: The MV Honor in February 2017, The Auto Banner in May 2018, The Grande America in March 2018, The Sincerity Ace in December2018, The Grande Europa in May 2019, The Diamond Highway in June 2019, and the Hoegh Xiamen in June 2020 among the most significant.

Cargo ship on the port, ready to be loaded with containers

A total of 3,945 vehicles were loaded on the Felicity Ace, at an estimated value of almost $500 million USD, this loss will have a big impact on both the cargo owner and the ship owner. Electric vehicle batteries have been the cause for several accidents in the past, and though it is early to say if that is the reason behind the Felicity Ace incident, however the growing emphasis on battery electric vehicles are creating difficulties for the traditional method of international vehicle logistics.

Following incidents like these, we look to the field we are in and ask two questions:

  • Can vehicle containerization be an alternative which reduces the impact of such large-scale accidents?

  • Are there ways to reduce hazard from such large-scale incidents?

The RoRo vessels operating on the seven seas today have capacity to load up to well above 8,000 vehicles, this has resulted in an environment where limited vessel schedules, long dwell time for vehicles in port, and long transport journeys due to multiple port calls are common. Cargo owners face the risk of “putting all their eggs in one basket”; with thousands of vehicles loaded on one vessel, and the impact is that much larger when something first goes wrong.

Besides the obvious advantages of container shipping, like frequent container sailing schedules, reduced inventory in storage, and speedy delivery, a vehicle transport lane serviced by shipping cars in containers will also have far fewer vehicles tied up to each vessel. Should accident first occur, the impact will still be limited, and deliveries will not be set back by months as is the case with bigger losses.

Battery Electric Vehicles to blame?

Battery electric vehicles have an additional safety hazard when compared to traditional gasoline vehicles. Several fires in the past have been proven to start from faulty batteries, and with the growing global sales numbers for EV’s, we can expect this to happen again. Electric vehicles shipped on a RoRo vessel are transported with the battery plugged in, and with a certain charge on for moving around the port and in/out of the vessel. They are stored side by side in close quarters, in large internal decks which are not partitioned into separate bulkheads. When a fire first breaks out in a vehicle battery it might be difficult for the crew to access the particular vehicle to put out the fire, and the fire can easily spread among the densely packed vehicles.

Loading a car on a container

Containerized vehicles will be loaded only 3 or 4 vehicles per container and can be clearly marked as hazardous cargo which enables the container liner to place the specific containers in a position on board the vessel which makes it easier to extinguish or contain if fire breaks out. The accident may also be limited to the given container the vehicles are loaded in.

Solutions offered by Kar-Tainer allows for vehicles to be staged, moved, and inserted into container with the use of a forklift, a setup that doesn't require vehicle to be self-propelled throug the transport journey. This allows for vehicle and battery to be shipped separately, and an even higher emphasis can be put on battery safety.

Vehicle safety is at the top of our mind in all our endeavors, reach out to us to discuss how we can support you in making your vehicle transports as safe and reliant as possible.

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