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Thursday, November 15, 2018

Shipping industry contradictions highlighted at safety conference

The effective governance of the shipping industry depends on steering a clear-sighted course of continuous improvement, and making best use of the instruments and mechanisms that can stimulate progress, concluded the international conference ‘Safety at Sea’ held at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, 23–24 March 2004.  The Conference was attended by leading academics, international agencies, regulatory authorities and ocean user groups.  INTERTANKO was represented and had a stand at the event.

The Conference noted that, while in absolute terms accidents and ship losses were at an all-time low, public perception, sharpened by high profile casualties involving pollution, is otherwise.  Expectations of marine safety are high, the tolerance of any ‘accident’ has become almost non-existent, and liabilities have been hugely increased.

Despite this background, there are, however, surprising contradictions, with continuing pressure to reduce manning costs of ships at a time when human factor issues have come to the fore. There may be fewer accidents, but the regulatory burden is greatly increasing, much of it bureaucratic and, according to the mariners attending the conference, unhelpful. Hence there are increasing calls for the progressive removal of layers of human ‘insulation’ against accidents to be reviewed. 

Another issue raised was the lack of attention to the human-system interface (in terms of design, layout and integration of systems and training in their use) as being the root cause of many accidents today. The key to improvement is in the close involvement of all stakeholders to ensure that a ship is ‘fit for purpose’ and that the master and his crew are provided with the proper tools and are adequately trained to be able to conduct their business in a safe and efficient manner.

NUMAST’s Allan Graveson highlighted that the industry is suffering from what he described as ‘unfair and destructive levels of excessive competition.’ Inadequate and complex systems of ownership, registration, management, operation, crewing, finance and classification of ships are being exploited by unscrupulous owners, he continued, claiming that  lack of accountability enables those responsible for substandard shipping operations to gain unfair advantages over those committed to quality operations.  Rarely do these inadequacies come to public attention, other than after environmental disasters, he concluded.

On a more positive note, it was recognised that there was a range of new initiatives, which could influence marine safety.  But much will depend upon the ability to attract good quality entrants into the maritime industry, concluded the conference.

Contact: Sally Woulfe