Lithium ion batteries stored in a container on board the Chinese vessel Cosco Pacific were not declared as dangerous goods, said Container News sources.
According to a container ship fire safety expert the lithium batteries on Cosco Pacific were not declared and were therefore incorrectly stowed, “The ship was lucky to have escaped a major incident,” said the source.
Video footage of the fire has emerged which shows the intensity of the flames as the cargo is offloaded at the Port of Colombo. Reports suggest that the cargo was listed as spare parts and accessories and was a consignment of three containers loaded by Taiwanese carrier Wan Hai Lines under a vessel sharing agreement with its larger Chinese partner.
Container ships have been dogged by cargo fires over the last 30 years, but 2019 saw a spike in serious incidents with on average a fire every month recorded. Container ship operators have made concerted efforts to root out misdecalred cargo and to make sure that any containers carrying hazardous material are stowed in areas that crew can access the cargo and deal with any fires.