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Friday, September 21, 2018


This operator has had four serious accidents in twelve years … carries cargo for three very well-known corporations … is based in the U.K. … its craft are all over 20 years old … and are registered in a developing country. Three out of four of these accidents occurred in developing countries and no accident reports were produced … the latest accident occurred in Canada and is being investigated closely, but this operator continues to operate into Europe - despite repeated concerns expressed over the operator’s safety record - claiming that possible overloading would have been the responsibility of the agent at the place of loading. Two of the corporations argue that they are not responsible since the cargo is delivered cif and therefore the actual carrier is chosen by their supplier, and they expect their supplier to ensure the highest standards – the third failed to return press phone calls.

Who is this operator? Well let’s just say that few will have heard of the name. But in fact, even though all the circumstances above ring bells for the shipping industry, the operator here is not a shipping company at all, but an airline.

The shipping industry is often confronted with the airline industry being held up as a paragon of virtue and transparency, with the implication that shipping should aspire to imitate airline business procedures.

Now we read in The Times of an airline which operates out of the U.K. but whose planes are over 20 years old and registered in Ghana to benefit from lower safety standards, according to the report. The plane may have been overloaded, it is said, the crew overtired after a punishing commercial schedule … and the plane failed to clear a hillock on take-off. More to the point, seven people died.

The Civil Aviation Authority can conduct spot checks on any aircraft at the request of the Department of Transport, but the overall safety regulation of this airline is controlled entirely by Ghana, the place of the plane’s registry. So the company’s aircraft have continued to fly into and out of the U.K. since this crash.

This airline had three previous accidents in 1992, 1996 and in 2001, all in Nigeria. The pilot involved in the first crash was at the controls again in the 2001 accident where one died and four were injured. No accident reports have been produced.

Suddenly the shipping industry does not look like the ugly sister any more when held up next to an airline. The shipping industry has been subject to continuous improvements in safety and operating standards for decades.

Four serious accidents in twelve years and still operating 20 year-old tankers or bulkers for major corporations? I don’t think so. Overloading being the responsibility of the loadport agent, rather then the responsibility of cargo owner and ship’s officers? Hardly. Refiner/end-user not responsible for the choice of ship because the cargo was delivered cif … well, we do still hear that one.

What about registration in Ghana? Well there are still ten flag states that manage to tot up twelve or more possible negative performance indicators in the Round Table’s updated Flag State Performance Table. But this publication is all part of the improvement process, aimed at encouraging ship operators to ‘consider carefully whether the use of flags that have a large number of negative performance indicators is in the interest of either the company or the industry at large’. By the way, Ghana is not one of these ten … but it still manages to accumulate ten possible negative performance indicators.

Contact: Bill Box