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04 March 2024

Lack of talent blamed for shipping accidents

By Nadim Kawach



Shipping accidents have increased sharply worldwide over the past few years because of the introduction of complex systems and a lack of experienced crew abroad vessels, according to a specialised organisation.

The surge in accidents has boosted business at shipping yards and consequently pushed up the cost of vessel repair and maintenance, the Singapore-based DNV company said in a report sent to Emirates Business.

“Updated figures for 2007 show that the losses from navigational accidents within the shipping industry are continuing to increase. This trend was also confirmed by the insurance industry. Premiums may increase by as much as 30 per cent in 2008,” DNV said in the report, presented at a shipping conference yesterday.

“DNV monitors the frequency of serious accidents. Over the past five years, there has been an increasing incidence of serious navigational accidents in several shipping segments. This increase is confirmed by many insurance companies such as Skuld, Norwegian Hull Club and The Swedish Club,” said DNV, which covers a wide range of services including classification, certification, consulting, training, asset operations, verification, laboratory testing and technology qualification.

In addition to the increasing frequency of navigational accidents, the cost of each repair caused is rising.

The yards are overbooked, making it hard to find a repair slot, resulting in increased prices for firms. Collisions, groundings and contacts now account for 60 per cent of the most expensive accidents.

The report quoted Torkel Soma, principal safety consultant at DNV Maritime, as saying: “DNV’s statistics show a ship is twice as likely to be involved in a serious grounding, collision or contact accident today compared to only five years ago. In addition, estimates show the cost of these accidents has doubled. Since this is the general trend for the international commercial fleet, the maritime industry needs to act on this immediately.”

According to the report, the boom in the shipping market and increased deliveries of new ships have resulted in pressure on crews.

It says the shortage of officers has resulted in lower retention and faster promotion, adding that as a result, the general level of experience is decreasing on board. At the same time new technical solutions have also been introduced, which might have increased the complexity of operations.

“Reliable technology and complying manuals are no assurance against making errors. Collisions, groundings and contact accidents do almost always involve human acts,” Soma says.

Helge Kjeøy, regional manager DNV Maritime South East Asia, said: “The main factor explaining the negative developments over the past few years is the undersupply of crew worldwide. This results in reduced experience and the high commercial pressure results in high workload. Adding new and more complex equipment does not only help the situation. Avoiding accidents under such situations requires a good safety culture, something which the maritime industry evidently needs to focus more on.”

The experience of leading shipping companies shows the focus has to be turned more in the direction of human elements and organisational factors, including all those involved – from the directors of the company to the officers on the bridge.

Soma adds: “Safety improvements with reduced accident frequency have been achieved through a structured approach addressing behaviour and culture. For the industry to maintain its traditionally good track record, the resilience of operations has to be addressed on a larger scale.”