Tianjin explosions highlight risks of ever larger container ships

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
19 August 2015

The devastating explosions in the Chinese port of Tianjin last week have highlighted risks associated with the trend for bigger container ships, according to the International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI).

The IUMI said the disaster, which claimed the lives of at least 114 people and injured hundreds, represented an increase in “accumulation risk”, where a single event causes an exceptionally large group of related losses.

“In the marine sector the continuous growth of this type of large-scale risk is being driven by the trend for bigger container ships and the construction of extensive freight and handling storage facilities,” said the IUMI.

The IUMI said more than 10,000 motor vehicles were destroyed by the blast, while insured losses have been estimated at potentially more than $1.5 billion (£958 million) by Fitch Ratings.

IUMI president Dieter Berg said: “This extremely sad and regrettable incident demonstrates the persistent growth of accumulation of values in port and storage areas, particularly in highly industrialised regions.

“Recent examples include the floods in Thailand in 2011 and Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast of the United States in 2012 that caused the biggest marine catastrophe loss ever.”

The explosions took place on 12 August in a warehouse for dangerous materials owned by Rui Hai Company, located at the Tianjin Port International Logistics Centre. A massive clean-up operation is currently under way.

In a statement Tianjin Port Development Holdings, which operates the port, said based on a preliminary assessment it did not expect the incident to cause any material loss to the group and “currently the port operations of the group are normal”.

Inchcape Shipping Services said most tanker operations at the port have been put on hold due to restrictions issued by the Tianjin Municipal Transport Commission as part of a crackdown on the handling of hazardous materials, while vessels carrying non-hazardous goods are using the port as normal.

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