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Fuel, cargo and vessel changes challenge salvors

Informa Markets/Ebsworth The opening session at Salvage and Wreck 2022
As the maritime industry tackles the challenge of decarbonisation, the salvage sector has raised its concerns over safety and wreck recovery as ships and cargos change.

Speaking at the Seatrade Maritime Salvage & Wreck event in London, International Salvage Union president Capt Nicholas Sloane set out the challenges facing the salvage sector, with broader shipping industry context from Daniel Richards - Associate Director, MSI Ltd.

Sloane said that fires on vessels are getting worse. Roughly every five days a small fire is dealt with on a vessel by crew, and once every 27 days there is a fire which requires outside assistance to bring it under control.

A major component of the fire problem in shipping is misdeclared cargo, said Sloane, with around 20% of container cargoes misdeclared either by weight or by content. Crews and salvors alike face an impossible challenge when expected to handle fires involving unknown materials, he said.

“Small fires get out of control very quickly. In a warehouse on land they say you have two minutes to deal with a fire before you lose control. At sea, two minutes is not long when you see how long it takes for the off-duty engineer to get from the controls in the bridge down the elevator, run down the deck path to the engine room. You’re well over the two minutes,” said Sloane.

Sloane noted a general trend in lower oil, products and dry bulk cargoes being lost in recent years, but losses of containers have risen sharply.

Owing to their regular route schedules and recent strong market, Richards said that the container sector is currently leading the adoption of future fuels, for which there are many unanswered questions when it comes to emergency response operations and capacity.

Richards said that regions are already developing at different rates when it comes to LNG bunkering infrastructure, and this is expected to be even more pronounced for the range of future fuels coming to market.

For salvors, that could mean dealing with regional differentiations in the expected fuels used on board and increased likelihood of multi-fuel systems, combining the salvage challenges of different fuel types.