Mega-vessels: Safe or Treacherous?


As mega-vessels continue to plough the seas in the waves of global trade, concerns are being raised pertaining to how the size of a vessel itself could put crew members and cargo at risk.

According to the Journal of Commerce, one of the safety risks that mega-vessels bring to the table is the relatively small number of ports that are able to handle them in the event of an emergency.

Others issues include the shortage of salvage tugs available to tow the megaship to safety, as well as the difficulty of locating and fighting fires if they ignite deep within a hold.

It is becoming much harder to avoid putting larger volumes of containers on a single vessel, which increases the likelihood of an accident.

The increase in vessel sizes and the advent of shipping alliances, as well as calling at fewer ports makes this problem all the more prevalent.

Raymond Hayden, a Veteran Maritime Attorney with Hill Rivkins LLP, said: “What do you do with a 19,000 TEU ship? Where do you take it if you run into a problem? How many ports can handle the unloading of a ship that size, with gantry cranes that are tall enough and long enough to go across the width of the ship?

“When you get fire in one of those holds, there is no way to go into the hold to fight it. You don’t know where it is in the hold, you are not going to send people down to fight it. Do they carry enough CO2 to smother it? They hope to slow down the fire if anything and continue to move as fast as they can.”

One argument in favour of mega-ships is the notion that, because new ships can haul so many containers, less ships are on the seas, thereby polluting less.

Mega-vessels: Safe or Treacherous? Source: Hafen Hamburg

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