News 02 Nov, 2011

Explosions involving Refrigerated Containers Serviced in Vietnam

The Club has received information regarding problems with refrigerated containers serviced in Vietnam between late March and late April 2011. At least four refrigerated containers have exploded leading to a number of fatalities. Although all incidents to date have occurred after discharge or prior to loading, the possibility of further explosions ashore and afloat cannot be ruled out.

The precise cause has not yet been identified, but it is suspected that the containers affected may have been recharged with suspect refrigerant gas during servicing. One theory is that the refrigerant may have contained methyl chloride which, after reacting with the aluminium inside the compressor, formed trimethyl aluminium which is explosive on contact with air.

The containers concerned had been serviced at a number of different depots in Vietnam. The problem does not appear to be confined to any one refrigerated container manufacturer.

Members are advised to identify any refrigerated containers in their custody that may have been subject to servicing and/or recharging in Vietnam during the affected time period, seek guidance from the container manufacturer and take appropriate action to mitigate the risk.

Members may also encounter restrictions on the handling of refrigerated containers in certain ports. In Los Angeles it has been reported that all refrigerated containers from Vietnam, regardless of whether or not they were serviced there, are being isolated by the terminal without power and with the container doors open. Tacoma is said to be doing the same thing irrespective of where the refrigerated containers originated. Other ports may decide to take similar action in due course.

Additional information can be found in a recent World Cargo News article: “Alarm sounded over exploding reefers”.

Members requiring further guidance should contact the Loss Prevention department.