Fatal Accidents During Marine Transport of Wood Pellets Due to Off-gassing – Experiences from Denmark

Frank Huess Hedlund, Øssur Jarleivson Hilduberg

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The atmosphere in unventilated wood pellet storage confinements, such as the cargo hold of marine vessels transporting pellets in solid bulk, can be severely oxygen deficient and contain deadly concentrations of harmful gasses, of which the most feared is the poisonous and odour-less carbon monoxide. The hazard has been known for over a decade and has been responsible for many accidents. We examine three fatal accidents on marine vessels in or near Danish waters and argue that they share strikingly similar aetiologies, if not repetitive patterns. It is generally recognized that accidents should be thoroughly investigated and lessons learned shared widely in order to minimize the number of times the same lessons have to be learned. The three Danish cases suggest that this learning process is deeply troubled for the solid biomass segment. The International Maritime Organization IMO/SOLAS has recently revised its guidance on entering enclosed spaces aboard ships in response to the ongoing problem of confined space incidents. We argue that the interpretation of the concept of an "enclosed space" is of utmost importance because accidents take place in rooms that are not considered enclosed by the crew.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBiomass Volume Estimation and Valorization for Energy
EditorsJ. S. Tumuluru
Publication date2016
ISBN (Print)978-953-51-4909-5
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Wood pellets
  • Off-gassing
  • Confined space
  • Accident investigation


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