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Gard: Look out for fuel leaks and unshielded hot spots in engine room

Gard warns shipowners that most fires onboard ships start in the engine room and the frequency of such fires is on the rise as well as gives their recommendations on how to prevent them.




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Norwegian maritime insurance company Gard on Wednesday (15 June) published an insight informing  that the majority of fires onboard ships start in the engine room and the frequency of such fires is on the rise. An excerpt of the article is as follows:


Every year fires on board ships lead to loss of lives and severe damage to the ships themselves. Most fires on board ships originate in the engine room where the three ingredients for a fire, namely fuel, oxygen and a source of ignition, exist in abundance. These do not only start the fire but also feed and intensify it further. Fire safety is not only about detecting and fighting a fire, but also about preventing it from igniting in the first place.  

In this article we will focus on how these fires can be prevented. We will touch upon some of the main causes of engine room fires and explore insights from our claims data to understand the frequency of such fires before setting out some recommendations on how to mitigate the risks of these fires occurring.

How do most engine room fires start?

A review of Gard’s hull and machinery (H&M) claims for the years 2017-2021 related to fires and explosions on vessels, shows that nearly 60% of all such fires originated in the engine room. Nearly two thirds of these engine room fires occurred on the main and auxiliary engines or their associated components such as turbochargers. The majority of these incidents were caused by a failure in a flammable oil system, most often in the low-pressure fuel oil piping, allowing spray of oil onto an unprotected hot surface. Below is an example from our claims portfolio.

Case study

A copper pipe that was part of the fuel oil pressure gauge supply pipework for one of the auxiliary engines fractured. Due to a missing metal spray shield the fuel sprayed onto the unprotected hot surfaces of the nearby turbocharger and the exhaust system which had temperatures of more than 400 °C. The fuel ignited causing extensive damage to auxiliary engines and power distribution cables. The vessel was out of service for 40 days to carry out repair works.

Investigation by experts showed that the copper pipe that fractured did not match the original design and had a lower wall thickness. There was no record of any previous repairs carried out to the fuel system pipework. The pipe assembly on the other three auxiliary engines appeared to be of original installation comprising of a steel pipe. The spray shield was removed during maintenance and not re-installed. Insulation was also suspected to be inadequate since exposed sections around the exhaust manifold and turbocharger were noticed on other three auxiliary engines. The investigators concluded that the heat shielding arrangements on the fire damaged auxiliary engine did not meet the relevant SOLAS regulations, II-2/

Gard: Look out for fuel leaks and unshielded hot spots in engine room

In the above case, there are two main aspects which need to be highlighted.

First is the leakage of flammable oil; and

Second is the inadequate protection to prevent highly flammable fuel from coming in contact with a source of ignition.

Leakage or spray of fuel due to a failure in the oil system

Below we list some of the most commonly occurring causes of fuel spraying from low pressure piping systems. The list is by no means exhaustive, but a review of past Gard cases has shown that below listed failures occur frequently.

Piping, piping connections and other associated components, such as o-rings, were not original parts or of a type recommended by the manufacturer. In some cases, modifications had been done by the crew under existing management, whilst in others the crew were not aware of such modifications as they had been done under previous ownership or management.

Piping connection had not been tightened to the required torque and with time it loosened due to, for example, vibrations. Another reason may be incorrect assembly after maintenance.

Bolts for flanges or filters breaking due to fatigue caused by overtightening over a period of time. In some cases, securing bolts were also found loose or missing altogether.

Fatigue fracture of pipes. Such pipes are typically not well supported along their entire length, which causes excessive stress due to vibrations. Lack of support may be attributed to the design or failure to reinstall the holding brackets after maintenance.

Fuel oil filter covers coming loose and displacement of the spindle from the top cover for various reasons.

Rupture of rubberized hoses due to degradation caused by the heat generated from nearby machinery.

Oil coming in contact with hot surfaces

Shielding can either be by insulating hot spots with thermal insulation or anti-splashing tapes, and/or by using physical barriers such as spray shields. Some typical issues with insulation which we have seen in our claims portfolio are:

  • the quality may differ from yard to yard,
  • it can deteriorate with age,
  • it may not have been fixed back properly after maintenance, and
  • it can become soaked with oil over a period of time due to minor leakages.

As for physical barriers:

they may not have been part of the original design and therefore not fitted, or where fitted, they may not have been installed back in place after maintenance has been carried out on the oil system, as in our case study, and as time passes may even be misplaced.

Older vessels need more attention

One of the factors which must be considered when assessing fire risks in engine rooms is the age of vessels. The risk of leakages from machinery may increase as ships grow older. We discuss this further below but highlight here some of the main issues that can increase the risk of fire in the engine room on older vessels.

Protection of hot surfaces may degrade, with the quality of insulation may deteriorating thereby increasing the probability of ignition and risk of fires.

Older vessels can face cuts to their maintenance and safety budgets as they near the end of their service life.

A vessel may have changed ownership and management a number of times during its life, and this can have a direct impact on the consistency of maintenance in the engine room.

Typical hotspots in the engine room

Based on previous fire incidents handled by Gard, we have found that the below listed areas acted as a source of ignition in most cases. The temperature of these areas can easily exceed 500 °C which may be well above the oil’s auto ignition temperature.

  • Exhaust manifold, pipes and associated flanges
  • Exposed areas of boilers
  • Turbochargers
  • Indicator valves on cylinders
  • Heater for purifier units
  • Electrical wires/components and switchboards. Melting or smoldering of cables can also contribute to the transmission of heat 

Data insights – do the numbers tell their own story?

In Gard, when analyzing trends, we, just like Cefor (The Nordic Association of Marine Insurers), follow closely the frequency trends of incidents over a given time period. This way we are also able to account for the growth in our portfolio from one year to the next. Over the five-year period, from 2017 – 2021, the frequency for the various Hull and Machinery (H&M) claims areas is showing a downward trend except for fires in engine room. This rise is largely due to fires occurring either on main engines or auxiliary engines which, as mentioned earlier, make up majority of all engine room fires.

Gard: Look out for fuel leaks and unshielded hot spots in engine room

Frequency of engine fires (GARD H&M data)

For the period 2017 - 2021, the average annual frequency of engine room fires is 0.13%, which means out of every 10,000 vessels, 13 vessels have had one such fire incident each year. This may not seem like a high number, but the consequences of such fires can be serious for human life, environment, and property causing significant business losses.

One of the main concerns is that the frequency of both main and auxiliary engine fires shows a rising trend. The highest frequency of fires on main and auxiliary engines is seen on passenger and container ships. It is almost twice the Gard 5-year average. Within the container ship segment, the frequency is the highest for feeders (<3,000 teu).

Cefor in its most recent ‘Fire Trend Analysis’ publication has made similar conclusions.

Note: The full Gard insight article written by the following authors can be found here


  • Siddharth Mahajan, Senior Loss Prevention Executive, Singapore
  • Svend Leo Larsen, Senior Claims Adviser, Bergen
  • Kim Watle, Senior Business Analyst, Oslo


Photo credit and source: Gard
Published: 24 June, 2022

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18th Singapore Maritime Week opens with ‘Actions meet Ambition’ theme

MPA will be making several announcements related to developments on low- emission maritime energy transition technologies, maritime artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and manpower, over the five-day event.





18th Singapore Maritime Week opens with ‘Actions meet Ambition’ theme

The Singapore Maritime Week (SMW), organised by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), returned in its 18th edition with more than 50 events from 15 to 19 April 2024 at the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Themed ‘Actions meet Ambition’, MPA said SMW is organised around four pillars - decarbonisation, digitalisation, services, and talent development. More than 10,000 maritime professionals from close to 40 countries, including delegates from governments, port authorities, international organisations, as well as industry experts and thought leaders are expected to attend SMW. 

In addition, the inaugural Expo@SMW trade exhibition, taking place from 16 to 18 April 2024 as part of SMW 2024, will showcase maritime solutions by close to 50 companies and startups.

SMW 2024 was launched by Mr Chee Hong Tat, Singapore’s Minister for Transport and Second Minister for Finance. Speaking at the Opening Ceremony, Mr Chee highlighted that Maritime Singapore has continued to grow year-on-year – a mark of the industry’s vote of confidence in Singapore, and the strong tripartite relationship between business, workers, and the government. 

Looking forward, Mr Chee said that Singapore aims to be a global hub for innovation, reliable and resilient maritime operations, and maritime talent, to better serve the current and future needs of our stakeholders and allow Singapore to contribute to global development and sustainability goals effectively.

A maritime dialogue was held on the topic of Supply Chain Resilience, Digitalisation and Decarbonisation. The panel, comprising Dr Volker Wissing, Federal Minister for Digital Affairs and Transport, Germany, Mr Even Tronstad Sagebakken, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries, Norway, and Mr Francis Zachariae, Secretary-General, International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities (IALA) was moderated by Professor Simon Tay, Chairman, Singapore Institute of International Affairs. 

The panel discussed the challenges the maritime sector faces when dealing with these changes and disruptions, the efforts and measures undertaken by them to prepare the maritime industry and its workforce, and the potential for various stakeholders to work together to address these challenges and capture new opportunities.

Other participants of SMW 2024 include Mr Arsenio Dominguez, Secretary- General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO); and Mr Sergio Mujica, Secretary-General of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

Speaking at his first maritime event in Singapore since his appointment as the Secretary-General of the IMO in January 2024, Mr Dominguez delivered a keynote speech at the Singapore Maritime Lecture that was moderated by Ambassador Mary Seet-Cheng, Singapore’s Non-Resident High Commissioner to the Republic of Fiji and Non-Resident Ambassador to the Pacific Islands Forum.

Secretary-General Dominguez emphasised the importance of ensuring seafarer safety and wellbeing, particularly in the light of geopolitical changes impacting shipping, and highlighted his vision for IMO to flourish as a transparent, inclusive, diverse institution. 

He also noted the rapid green and digital transition unfolding in the maritime sector, driven by the targets set by IMO Member States in the IMO 2023 GHG Strategy. 

Mr. Dominguez said: “IMO is on track to adopt mid-term measures by late 2025 to cut GHG emissions, to reach net zero targets. Alongside this regulatory work, there is a need to consider issues such as safety, pricing, infrastructural availability to deliver new fuels, lifecycle emissions, supply chain constraints, barriers to adoption and more.”

“Seafarers will require training to be able to operate new technologies as well as zero or near-zero emission powered vessels safely.”

“We need ‘early movers’ in the industry as well as forward-looking policy makers to take the necessary risks and secure the right investments that will stimulate long-term solutions for the sector. In this regard, we welcome the efforts being undertaken by Singapore to facilitate collaboration among maritime stakeholders, including the MPA-led Maritime Energy Training Facility.”

SMW 2024 will also bring together MPA’s Green and Digital Shipping Corridor (GDSC) partners, namely Australia, six ports in Japan, Port of Los Angeles, Port of Long Beach, Port of Rotterdam, and Tianjin, to discuss GDSC initiatives to support IMO’s Greenhouse Gases (GHG) emission reduction targets for international shipping.

These include the development and uptake of zero or near-zero GHG emission fuels at scale along corridor routes, technologies to accelerate decarbonisation, collaboration to enhance operational and digital efficiencies, as well as updates on key milestones achieved for the Singapore and Port of Rotterdam and the Singapore and Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach GDSCs.

MPA will ink several partnerships and agreements with more than 30 partners during SMW 2024 in areas such as training and cybersecurity. These partners comprise international organisations, foreign governments and agencies, classification societies, maritime partners, institutes of higher learning, tech companies, trade associations, and unions. 

MPA will also be making several announcements related to developments on low- emission maritime energy transition technologies, maritime artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and manpower, over the five-day event.

MPA and 22 partners , including the leading global marine engine manufacturers, today also signed a Letter of Intent to establish the Maritime Energy Training Facility (METF). The METF, supported by the tripartite maritime community in Singapore, aims to close the skills and competencies gap for the safe operation of new zero or near-zero emission-powered vessels.


Photo credit: Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore
Published: 15 April 2024

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Alternative Fuels

MPA to set up facility for maritime workforce to train in handling new bunker fuels

Facility will be anchored by new dual-fuel marine engine simulator for training on safe handling, bunkering and management of incidents involving the use of alternative marine fuels such as methanol.





MPA to set up facility for maritime workforce to train in handling new bunker fuels

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) on Monday (15 April) said it will establish an industry-supported facility to address the current competencies gap by training the global maritime workforce in handling and operating vessels using clean marine fuels. 

MPA said there is a need for more maritime personnel and seafarers to be trained and equipped to operate these ships safely and efficiently as the number of ships operating on zero or near-zero emission fuels grows. 

With hundreds of crew changes conducted daily here, Singapore’s Maritime Energy Training Facility (METF) is well placed to support the training of international seafarers. Ship owners and operators can expect time and training cost savings by tapping on METF’s training facilities. 

Around 10,000 seafarers and other maritime personnel are expected to be trained at METF from now to the 2030s, as the facilities are progressively developed by 2026.

The Letter of Intent to establish METF was signed by MPA and 22 partners comprising global marine engine manufacturers, international organisations, classification societies, trade associations, unions, and institutes of higher learning, at the SMW 2024 opening ceremony. 

The setting up of METF follows from recommendations put forth by the Tripartite Advisory Panel, formed in early 2023 by SMF and supported by MPA, to identify emerging and future skills and competencies to build for the maritime workforce.

METF will be established as a decentralised network of training facilities in Singapore. It will be anchored by a new dual-fuel marine engine simulator for training on the safe handling, bunkering and management of incidents involving the use of alternative fuels, such as methanol and ammonia. 

Other training facilities supporting METF include the integrated engine room and bridge simulator by the Singapore Maritime Academy (SMA) at Singapore Polytechnic (SP), as well as the bridge and engine simulator at Wavelink Maritime Institute (WMI)2 for crew resource management training. 

For emergency response training, METF is supported by gas and fire safety training facilities at Poly Marina operated by the SMA, as well as AR-enabled scenario- based training developed by SP’s Centre of Excellence in Maritime Safety.

METF will also tap various partners’ assets and training technologies to upskill the global maritime workforce, including seafarers, on the operations, bunkering and management of zero or near-zero emission-powered vessels. New training courses and curriculum will be developed by METF’s partners, and progressively rolled out from this year.

MPA also aims to support and contribute to the work of the Maritime Just Transition Task Force (MJTTF) as one of the institutions rolling out the Baseline Training Framework for Seafarers in Decarbonization – which is under development – through METF. 

This will directly contribute to the joint International Maritime Organization (IMO)–MJTTF work to develop training provisions for seafarers in support of decarbonisation of shipping, and complements the IMO's ongoing comprehensive review of the International Convention and Code on Standards of

Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW). Singapore is currently chairing the IMO Working Group on the comprehensive review of the STCW Convention and Code, established in 2023 under the Sub-Committee on Human Element, Training and Watchkeeping.

As part of the METF curriculum, SMA has launched one of the Asia Pacific’s first training courses focused on handling methanol as fuel for ships. The training course, accredited by MPA, covers operational and safety protocols during methanol fuelling developed by MPA following the first ship-to-containership methanol bunkering operation conducted in Singapore in July 2023. 

The course also includes a methanol firefighting practical component covering both shipboard and terminal fires. SMA currently offers two sessions of the Basic and Advanced courses every month, with plans to scale up based on the industry’s demands. The course will be open to all maritime personnel and seafarers starting in April 2024.

With strong demand signalled by the industry for such common training facilities, METF is expected to catalyse investments by the industry to develop other training facilities and solutions in Singapore to tap into this growth area. MAN Energy Solutions, one of the leading global engine makers of alternative-fuel engines, recently opened a new mixed-purpose facility. 

The facility includes a new MAN PrimeServ5 training academy for customers and employees on the safe operation, maintenance, and troubleshooting of all MAN Energy Solutions equipment. METF is also expected to benefit corporate training academies set up by shipping companies, such as those from Eastern Pacific Shipping, to train their global seafaring crew and shore-based personnel.

The MPA – SMF Joint Office for Talent and Skills (Joint Office) was established in March 2024 to coordinate and drive the tripartite efforts by the government, industry, and unions to upskill the Maritime Singapore workforce across shore-based and seafaring jobs and to ensure Singapore continues to have access to a diversity of maritime talents and experts.

To provide workers with greater flexibility in the acquisition of new skills, the Joint Office will work with IHLs and industry to review and progressively convert relevant short-term courses, or on-the-job training into accredited competency-based micro-credentials. These will focus on emerging skills such as maritime cybersecurity, digitalisation, and sustainability. 

The micro-credentials could potentially be stacked towards formal or industry-recognised qualifications and to fill the gap in quality and flexible upskilling or reskilling opportunities for working adults while they remain in full employment. The Joint Office plans to expand the micro-credential pathway, allowing recognition of more courses and workplace learning as micro-credentials over time.

Related: Singapore bunkering sector enters milestone with first methanol marine refuelling op


Photo credit: Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore
Published: 15 April 2024

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Alternative Fuels

Singapore-Rotterdam Green and Digital Shipping Corridor partners to implement first-mover pilot projects

Partners will carry out projects and testing out commercial structures to accelerate uptake of zero and near-zero emission bunker fuels, such as synthetic and bio-variants of methanol and ammonia.





RESIZED scott graham

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and Port of Rotterdam Authority (PoR) on Monday (15 April) said the Singapore-Rotterdam Green and Digital Shipping Corridor (GDSC) has commenced the implementation phase and aims to enhance operational efficiencies and lower barriers for first movers to ensure availability, acceptability and affordability of alternative marine fuels. 

The corridor will accelerate transformation efforts for maritime decarbonisation and digitalisation.

The GDSC partners will convene for the inaugural GDSC Symposium as part of Singapore Maritime Week 2024. The partners include MPA, PoR, PSA International, A.P. Moller Maersk, CMA CGM, Hapag-Lloyd, MSC, Ocean Network Express, BP, Shell and Methanol Institute. 

The Singapore-Rotterdam GDSC was established by MPA and PoR in August 2022 to accelerate transformation efforts for maritime decarbonisation and digitalisation.

To-date, the GDSC initiative has brought together 26 global value-chain partners across shipping lines, fuel suppliers, port authorities and operator, industry coalitions, banks, leading institutes of higher learning and knowledge partners.

Hapag-Lloyd, the world’s fifth largest liner shipping company operating more than 260 ocean going vessels, is the latest addition to the corridor. Hapag-Lloyd joins four other leading global container shipping lines which have committed to deploying large container vessels running on zero-and near-zero emission fuels along the high-volume Asia-Europe trade lane.

Other new corridor partners include A*STAR Centre for Maritime Digitalisation (A*STAR’s C4MD), led by A*STAR’s Institute of High Performance Computing (A*STAR IHPC). A*STAR’s C4MD aims to develop advanced computational modelling, simulation and artificial intelligence solutions for a safe, efficient and sustainable maritime ecosystem. 

Encouraging the uptake of zero and near-zero emission fuels

The GDSC partners will be implementing several first-mover pilot projects and testing out commercial structures to accelerate the uptake of zero and near-zero emission fuels, such as synthetic and bio-variants of methanol, ammonia, methane, and hydrogen. This implementation follows earlier modelling studies undertaken by the Maersk Mc-Kinney Møller Centre for Zero Carbon-Shipping and the Centre for Maritime Studies of the National University of Singapore to explore multiple alternative fuels pathways and their viability as sustainable marine fuel.

Bio-methane Working Group

The bio-methane working group, led by SEA-LNG has examined relevant regulations and certification standards such as the ISCC EU certification to support the adoption of bio-methane for marine bunkering at a commercial scale. The GDSC partners plan to carry out Bio-LNG bunkering pilots over 2024 and 2025. These pilots would be based on mass balancing chain of custody principle that involves physical blending of certified bio-methane with non-certified conventional LNG across shared transport, storage and distribution infrastructure such as pipelines.

Methanol Working Group

Following the conduct of the Port of Rotterdam’s green methanol terminal bunkering operation on the world’s first methanol-fuelled container ship, and the world’s first ship-to-containership methanol bunkering at the Port of Singapore, the methanol working group, led by PoR, has worked on a clear starting point for fuel standards and knowledge exchange on chain of custody principles. The Working Group will also be addressing common challenges such as acceptability, availability, and affordability to carry out commercial methanol bunkering at both Ports of Singapore and Rotterdam.

Ammonia Working Group

The ammonia working group, jointly led by MPA, the Nanyang Technological University Maritime Energy and Sustainable Development Centre of Excellence, and the A*STAR’s C4MD will be developing a framework to assess the lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity of green ammonia for bunkering, and a decision-making tool for value-chain partners to optimise their green ammonia supply chain network. This study, to be completed by 2025, will support ongoing efforts by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to develop the Life Cycle GHG Assessment (LCA) framework and guidelines for alternative marine fuels.

Hydrogen Working Group

With Shell’s contribution, the hydrogen working group has been assessing the technical and economic feasibility of hydrogen as a marine fuel for ocean-going container vessels. Going beyond desktop-based studies, the working group aims to develop novel ship designs allowing the GDSC partners to understand the cost differential and how to practically overcome the challenges, whilst maximising the opportunities that hydrogen as a sustainable marine fuel offers.

Commercial Structures Working Group to reduce cost barriers to zero and near-zero emissions fuels

To support these fuel-based initiatives and drive commercial scalability, a working group led by PoR and the Global Maritime Forum (GMF), supported by the GDSC partners, is developing and testing commercial structures to reduce the cost barriers of using zero and near-zero emission fuels. The working group is currently exploring various demand and supply aggregation mechanisms and public and private financial levers that have the potential to collectively bring down the green premium and help bridge the cost gap.

Adoption of digital solutions for efficient and secure ship-shore data exchange and GHG emissions monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV)

On the digital front, Singapore and Rotterdam have successfully trialled the exchange of port-to-port data and are now able to exchange vessel arrival and departure times to facilitate port planning and for ships to optimise their port call voyage between Singapore and Rotterdam. Following this successful trial, Singapore and Rotterdam have jointly issued a call-for-proposal (CFP) for standards-based solutions that enable efficient and secure data exchange between ship and shore.

Related: MPA and Port of Rotterdam sign MoU to form world’s longest Green and Digital Corridor
Related: Partners in Rotterdam-Singapore Green & Digital Shipping Corridor support emission reductions
Related: New progress report highlights Rotterdam-Singapore Green & Digital Shipping Corridor
Related: MPA and Port of Rotterdam sign MoU to form world’s longest Green and Digital Corridor


Photo credit: Scott Graham on Unsplash
Published: 15 April 2024

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