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Sunday, December 17, 2017

Tanker incidents remain at a low level in 2004

INTERTANKO has recorded 140 tanker incidents in 2004, most of them being minor with no pollution, fatalities, injuries or serious damages. This is an increase of 9 incidents compared to 2003. The average number of tanker incidents per year in this decade has been 150 incidents per year, just over one quarter of the average 554 incidents per year in the 1990s and one sixth of the average 888 incidents per year in the 1980s. During that same period tonne-mile activity in the tanker market has grown continuously with an increase of more than 6% in 2004 alone.

 There were two serious pollution incidents in 2004. The Athos I incident in November in the U.S. provides a regrettable example of how a first-class operator, apparently innocent of any wrongdoing, can suddenly find itself coping with a major pollution incident. In this case, what is believed to be a 15-foot U-shaped pipe protruding from the bed of the Delaware river is reported to have ripped a six-foot gash in the bottom of the tanker. Later an anchor recovered from the site in Mantua Creek anchorage has also been linked to the accident. Investigators said there were no signs that anything was wrong with the ship on its six- to eight-hour trip up the river.  

Until the Al Samidoon incident in mid-December, 2004 was the year with the lowest amount of accidental oil spilt from tankers since records started in 1978. The Athos I spill was the biggest oil spill in 2004, with some 1,000 tonnes of oil lost – small compared to the Exxon Valdez but still extremely significant in local terms, with more than 1,500 personnel involved in the clean-up of roughly 85 miles of river bank affected by the spill. However, the 8,500 tonne oil spill from the 1992-built VLCC Al Samidoon in the Suez Canal on 15 December altered the situation. The captain of the Kuwait Oil Tanker Company (KOTC) vessel was reported by the state-owned Alakhbar newspaper as saying that a minor side collision with a barge caused the spill.

The most serious incidents in 2004 have been tanker explosions with loss of life. INTERTANKO has recorded 62 fatalities onboard tankers in 2004, 46 in connection with fire and explosions, 28 of which occurred on chemical tankers. 8 fatalities resulted from two tanker incidents at repair-yards. Almost half the tanker incidents involved ships of less than 30,000 dwt and 83% of the incidents involved ships of less than 100,000 dwt. INTERTANKO is a key part of an industry group looking more closely into the chemical tanker accidents.  

Incident data indicate that after having experienced a very strong improvement during the 1990s, the number of incidents has now reached such a low level that detailed analysis and a systematic approach is needed to further improve the safety performance. 

There was an increase in collisions in 2004 compared to 2003 and (including contact) they represent 30% of all incidents in 2004. INTERTANKO recorded 43 tankers involved in collisions (29) or contact (24) in 2004. Half of these tankers were below 30,000 dwt (13 of which below 5,000 dwt) and of those above 30,000 dwt, only 4 were above 80,000 dwt. The information published on these collisions was not sufficient to perform any serious analysis. 

In a similar vein, the Swedish Club's latest analysis of hull and machinery claims demonstrates that while, overall, machinery claims are the most frequent, if you focus on the high-cost end of the scale, collisions are in the majority. (See further comment in Points of View).  

Contact: Erik Ranheim