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X-Press Pearl fire shows supply chain needs to improve processes

X-Press Pearl fire shows supply chain needs to improve processes
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Stakeholders in the maritime industry and across the supply chain need to better understand safe packaging and container loading processes if a disaster similar to the fire on the X-Press Pearl is to be avoided in the future, according to maritime insurance specialists TT Club.

In a statement following reports that the vessel had started sinking off the coast of Sri Lanka, TT Club said the “appalling events” underline the problem of ship fires “caused by the mishandling of dangerous goods”.

Peregrine Storrs-Fox, Risk Management Director, TT Club, said there needs to be greater understanding by all actors in the supply chain of “safe packaging, packing loading and unloading of containers”.

There also needs to be greater awareness of the need of “detailed, accurate information of the cargo’s attributes and any potentially hazardous reactions to any eventuality occurring through the entire transit”.

“Above all truth, trust and transparency must guide involved,” Storrs-Fox said.

The fire began on the 20 May 2021 in the cargo hold of the X-Press Pearl shortly after leaving India. The vessel started sinking outside the Port of Colombo, Sri Lanka, on 3 June, causing fears of a possible environmental and economic disaster for the region.

Early reports suggest that the fire was caused by a leak in a container carrying nitric acid which was properly declared but badly packaged.

“While supply chains are complex and the hazards numerous, relevant knowledge and guidance are critical, within a control environment that must include effective inspection and enforcement regimes,” Storrs-Fox explained.

TT Club said it has been campaigning to reduce “life-threatening, cargo and ship damaging, environmentally impactful and highly costly events”.

It said this has included promoting awareness and wider use of the IMO/ILO/UNECE Code of Practice for Packing of Cargo Transport Units and seeking changes in regulatory requirements to “improve the clarity, application, implementation and enforcement of mandatory regulations”.

However, speaking to PTI on 28 May, Kris Kosmala, Strategic Advisor, BunkerMetric, said there was little regulatory authorities could do to prevent similar incidents happening again.

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