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Hold Fire on Zim Boxship off Sri Lanka Damages Containers

hold fire on Zim containership
Approximately 300 containers are believed damaged in a cargo hold fire (file photo)

Published Aug 18, 2022 12:10 PM by The Maritime Executive

Reports are indicating that a Zim containership suffered a cargo hold fire shortly after departing Colombo, Sri Lanka earlier in the month. The 102,500 dwt Zim Charleston, registered in Hong Kong and operating under charter to Zim, had departed China and made stops in Hong Kong and Singapore before Sri Lanka.

Cargo claims consultant WK Webster is advising clients, “We have received reports that container ship, Zim Charleston experienced a fire in cargo hold no. 4 whilst navigating off Colombo on August 8, 2022. The vessel is reported to have berthed at East Container Terminal, Colombo, where containers stowed on deck in the affected bays were discharged on August 12, 2022.”

The extent of the damage remains unconfirmed with reports saying that local officials were working with Zim to determine if it was safe to discharge containers from the affected hold. AIS signals show that the vessel remains today, August 18, docked in Colombo. The fire appears to have been discovered while the vessel was underway in the Indian Ocean west of Sri Lanka and the ship reversed course returning to Colombo.

According to Webster, approximately 300 containers may have been affected by the fire, heat, smoke, and water damage arising from the subsequent firefighting operations. The vessel’s carrying capacity is reported at 8,586 TEU.

This would be the second fire reported aboard a containership operated by Zim in the last year. Last October, a stack caught fire aboard the Zim Kingston, while the vessel was off Vancouver, Canada waiting for berth space. The fire was contained to a small area of the on-deck stacks but two months later while the recovery operation was underway smoke was again seen coming from one of the containers. Firefighters reported that the fire had reignited in the insulation in one of the containers.

Fires in containers that are often misdeclared or improperly loaded remain one of the key concerns of carriers and the industry. Earlier this week it was reported that Maersk has ordered a device that can be used by the fire crews aboard its ships that can penetrate containers and spray water, foam, or CO2, inside the burning container. The manufacturer reports the device can be used both on deck including with a hoist and telescoping arm or below decks. Maersk is placing the device on all of its vessels while CMA CGM has also placed the device on some of its ships and PIL also ordered the device for its ships.