Insurers need to drive motor manufacturers to the table to tackle vehicle fires – Dubois

The chair of the loss prevention committee at the International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) has said the vehicle manufacturers have to become involved in the fight to stop vehicles fire onboard vessels.

Pascal Dubois was speaking as IUMI opened its annual conference in Edinburgh where electric vehicles and a strong increase of car fires in vessels in recent months will be a key topic.

However, Dubois said insurers needed to steer clear of the rumours and stick to the facts when it comes to the dangers posed by electric vehicles and the lithium batteries that are used to power them.

“The transportation of electric vehicles has been the subject of a great deal of discussion because of recent fires in vehicle carriers and the concerns that the caused of the fires have been the electric vehicles,” he explained. “We are told electric vehicle fires are more frequent, fires are more intense and cannot be extinguished. However as insurers we need to base our decisions and approach on science.”

Dubois said the latest figures should that electric vehicle fires at sea are at a tenth of the levels of internal combustion engine vehicles.

“What we have to do is work in better systems for the detection of and the extinguishing of onboard vehicle fires,” he added. “We need new measures for new risks.”

However, he added that 86% of vehicles fires start not in the engine but in the interior of the vehicles and the plastic contained on the vehicle.

“What we really need is to work with vehicles manufacturers to look at the causes and to seek solutions,” Dubois added, “At present there is no real dialogue, and we have to remember that the manufacturers have an interest in finding solutions to the problems we face.

“There may be a case for more effort to be made to engage with the manufacturers.”

Dubois said that while fires on board car carrying vessels has dominated the media headlines the threat of accumulation risks have to be addressed.

“If we have 6,000 vehicles on a vessel with an average cost of Euro 40,000, if there is a total lost the value in a quarter of a billion Euros,” he explained. “However, if we look at a fully loaded mega container vessel the loss of that vessel may have a cargo value of four to five billion Euros.

“When you add the threat of port accumulations and the fact that insurers really do not have any detailed idea if where the cargo they are insuring actually is, we have to find ways to address the accumulation risk. Marine insurance represents just over one percent of the global non-life premiums, we are taking on too much risk for those premiums.”