Skip to main content

Fire incidents are increasing

06 June 2023

In 2022, more than 200 fire incidents occurred, eight of which led to the total destruction of ships. These are the highest figures in a decade and fire is now, according to insurance giant Allianz's annual report on shipping and safety, the second top cause of ship losses.

The number of ship losses worldwide is decreasing. 30 years ago, the global fleet lost over 200 ships a year and as recently as six years ago over 100. In 2022, a total of 38 losses were reported – the lowest figure ever.

"It reflects the positive impact that safety programs, training, changes in ship design and regulation have had over time," says Captain Rahul Khanna, Head of Marine Risk Consulting at Allianz.

But that doesn't mean it’s all good. The number of incidents is still constant around 3,000 per year. And over 200 of these were fires, the highest recorded number in ten years and a 17 percent increase in one year. Fires are now the third most common cause of all incidents and the second most common cause of ship loss. In the last five years, 64 ships have been lost to fire.

According to the report, the world's shift to fossil-free energy is a significant factor behind the increased risk of fires at sea. Most of today's ships lack sufficient fire protection in electric vehicles (EVs) and other battery-powered goods – a market expected to grow by over 30% annually over the next decade. Therefore, there is a need to invest in preventive measures, such as ensuring that the crew receives adequate training and access to suitable fire-fighting equipment, improving early detection systems and developing hazard control and emergency plans. The report also suggests that specially built ships for the transport of electric cars be developed.

Many fires start in cargo spaces and often in containers containing goods that have not been properly declared. A quarter of the serious incidents on container ships are traced to wrongly declared dangerous goods such as chemicals, batteries and charcoal. Allianz sees this as a major future challenge as the problems get worse the bigger the ships get. Container transport capacity has doubled in the last 10 years. Fires are also the form of incident that causes the most capital losses.

The most common type of incident in 2002 was machinery damage/failure, which accounted for nearly half of all incidents globally (1,478). The greatest number of incidents occurred around the British Isles (679).

To the report

Dela på