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IN the upcoming year, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) will place its emphasis on addressing the issue of preventing container ship fires, which are noted as some of the most expensive claims in the marine insurance sector, reports Sydney's Insurance Business.

The International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI), based in Hamburg, has informed Insurance Business that the IMO's Ship Systems and Equipment Subcommittee (SSE10) is set to commence its examination of potential solutions in March "It's probably the only platform [the IMO] where you can achieve change but because there are so many stakeholders and so many actors [175 member states] involved it is a long process," said IUMI policy director Hendrike Kuhl.

AXA XL head Tom Hughes stated shipping industry stakeholders need to find a way to solve the root cause of the container fire problem. "What the industry truly needs is for shippers to take on more responsibility in dealing with the problem of cargo mis-declaration," said Mr Hughes."This has been the major contributor to the increasing occurrence of fires on container ships in recent times." However, Mr Hughes also stated it was "positive" that after extensive lobbying "we can now expect renewed efforts to influence change in the way these increasingly large vessels are designed." In the coming years, Mr Hughes stated container ships could be designed with more compartments to segregate cargoes and isolate fires that ignite while the vessel is out at sea"This partitioning approach may prevent the fire from spreading throughout the entire vessel, averting a total loss," said Mr Hughes. "Upgrading fire-fighting systems, including thermal systems to detect temperature breaches within a single container, or installing smoke detectors within containers themselves rather than the cargo hold, are just a few examples of the proposals likely to be put forward in the coming months."