Carriers Join Technology Accelerator Program to Improve Cargo Safety

cargo safety
Fire a year ago on the Felicity Ace highlighted the growing danger from lithium-ion batteries (Portuguese Navy photo)

Published Feb 23, 2023 6:39 PM by The Maritime Executive

Faced with the increasing danger of cargo fires and the ever-present challenge of securing containers to minimize losses, several major shipping carriers are joining an effort to improve cargo safety. Established by Lloyd’s Register, the Safetytech Accelerator is a non-profit and the first fully dedicated technology accelerator and it will be uniting the industry in the effort to find and advance technology innovations for the maritime industry.

According to the organizers of this new initiative, the scale and breadth of the challenges facing operators are growing and continue to evolve. Insurers such as Allianz have highlighted the increasing fire danger as one of the greater concerns for the industry while many organizations are focusing on the growth of electric vehicles and the growing use of lithium-ion batteries. The challenge facing the operators of car carriers was highlighted by the dramatic fire and loss of the Felicity Ace a year ago off the Azores resulting in an estimated $400 million cargo loss. However, the danger is broader with the increasing carrier of lithium-ion batteries and other hazardous cargoes in containers.

This year will also see the next phase of the introduction of a new class of ultra-large container vessels. As the ships get larger and more complex the danger grows for large-scale container losses overboard. Studies are exploring the forces these large containerships are subjected to in an effort to minimize overboard losses resulting from stack collapses.

The Safetytech Accelerator Cargo Fire & Loss Innovation Initiative is a collaborative technology accelerator program that will seek to address these issues. Maersk, Evergreen, HMM, Ocean Network Express (ONE), Seaspan, and the Offen Group along with Lloyd’s Register are the anchor partners for the project which they hope to expand to involve more industry participants. 

“Our mission is to help solve some of the most complex safety, risk, and resilience challenges in industry through open innovation and collaboration,” said Maurizio Pilu, Managing Director of the Safetytech Accelerator. “Eliminating cargo fire and loss is a big challenge in the maritime industry and while accidents are thankfully infrequent, their impact can be extremely large. Together with the Anchor Partners, we hope this new collaborative technology acceleration initiative will help industry make significant progress towards that goal.”

The initiative has a broad scope encompassing three significant topics of concern. The first relates to onboard cargo control, including whether cargo has been properly, loaded, secured, and monitored during transit. The second area covers the ability to detect fire onboard and stop its spread through effective onboard response, particularly on large container ships and car carriers. The third element relates to the challenges created by the increasing scale of vessels.

Together the participants will work on shaping the joint requirements, identifying technology solutions, and developing best practices and recommendations. Their efforts will be supported by carefully designed trials. Lloyd’s points out that the objectives of the effort resonate with the broader mandate to improve the safety of ships and crew as well as protect the marine ecosystem. The anchor partners hope through this collaboration to help the industry to make significant progress in improving cargo safety.