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Monday, September 24, 2018

INTERTANKO demonstrates the drastic improvement in the safety record of tankers

At the Neva Conference in St. Petersburg this week, Erik Ranheim, INTERTANKO’s Manager Research and Projects, demonstrated trends showing the strong safety performance of tankers. Figures on the total number of incidents involving tankers, on pollution from tankers, and on tankers’ total constructive losses all clearly show that the safety record of tankers has improved drastically.  

Pollution during the eight years prior to 2004 was only 21% of that in the eight years before that, and the number of constructive total losses has halved. Most of the tanker incidents have involved smaller tankers. Of the 97 tanker incidents that have been recorded for 2004, 41 involved tankers below 10,000 dwt and only 12 tankers above 100,00 dwt. Most of these incidents did not involve fatalities, pollution or major damage. 

On the subject of further improving tankers’ safety performance, Ranheim presented the INTERTANKO Poseidon Challenge and quoted one of the initiators of the challenge, Emmanuel Vordonis, Executive Director Thenamaris Ships Management, member of INTERTANKO’s Executive Committee, who said that leading members of our community - politicians, regulators and charterers alike - appear to be digesting the fact that mere legislative or penalising measures are already reaching their limits as a driver for further improvement. Many have even started to express concern that all such externally imposed controlling devices are becoming counterproductive or even harmful.


In his presentation Ranheim recognised the need for good international regulations, but said that over-regulation would lead to alienation, lack of motivation and flexibility, and could result in excessive procedures developed purely to meet required regulation. Over-regulation can result in too much bureaucracy, he added, a compliance culture as opposed to a safety culture, and a check list mentality which could stifle initiatives continuously to improve. A balance is necessary to create a good safety culture.  

He said that with safety having been improved to such a high degree in the tanker industry, proper research is needed to advance safety performance. Unfortunately there is a lack of information on the root cause of accidents. He quoted a DNV study - “Blue-chip or sub-standard” - which states that “Causes of shipping accidents have been recorded for the last 100 years and it was soon recognised that every accident has a unique character with a multiple of potential causes and numerous possible combinations”. Ranheim said that many studies show that operator or human failure is the cause of at least 80% of accidents. This not only includes the people on the bridge or in the engine room, but also shore management, which to a great extent decides the equipment, training of crew and officers and procedures onboard ships. 

Ranheim said that the strong improvement in safety performance had not led to complacency in the industry. INTERTANKO has helped bring into being the more robust Common Standards for tanker newbuildings, and has also taken the initiative of setting up a group to look more closely into how to reduce explosions on chemical tankers. At the association’s last annual meeting in Athens in April this year, the Poseidon Challenge was launched to encourage all links in the transportation chain to take initiatives to improve safety performance. 

Ranheim’s presentation can be viewed on the INTERTANKO web site at: 

Contact: Erik Ranheim