Shipping safety remains an ever present issue at the start of 2015 as industry regulators make louder calls to investigate a range of incident types and improve safety standards.
According to the latest data from IHS Maritime & Trade, a global provider of critical information and insight, a total of 1,639 maritime casualty incidents were reported during 2014, a 10% increase from 2013 when 1,489 incidents were reported.
Notably, of all the casualty incident types, hull and machinery damage, wrecking and stranding, ship-on-ship collisions and contact damage continues to show a marked increase in incident rates, IHS Maritime & Trade data shows.
In 2014, there was a considerable increase in all four of these categories, with a 23% year-on-year increase in collisions alone. Not surprisingly, it is the busy waters of the South China Sea that saw the highest number of collisions.
Of note in 2014 under the fire/explosion category was the Japanese tanker Shoko Maru, which caught fire during maintenance in May 2014. However, there was a notable 26% decrease from the previous year along with foundering, which saw a 28% drop from 2013.
Looking ahead, the IHS Maritime & Trade’s Fleet Capacity model shows that 1,484 vessels will be added in 2015 to the main global trading fleet, which stood at 42,604 in 2014. This trend will continue at roughly 3% per year and will pass the 50,000 mark by 2020.
“As the world’s trading fleet expands, so too will port congestion and vessel ages. It is likely that 2015 will see further increases in the number of casualty incidents,” said Gary Li, Senior Analyst at IHS Maritime & Trade.
“It is worthwhile looking back at the previous year in order to assess the trends and causes in order to better understand the risks ahead.”
For example, the main locations of incidents continue to occur in the busy maritime trading zones of Europe and Asia Pacific. IHS data shows that 2014 saw double digit year-on-year increases in the number of incidents in the top-10 trading zones, with the British Isles and the North Sea seeing a 19% increase alone, while Eastern Mediterranean and the South China Sea seeing 12% increases each.
“The continued growth in global maritime trade is of course good news, but it should go hand in hand with the safety of seafarers” said Mr Li. “However, the declining rate of total losses as a proportion of overall casualties is a good trend”.
The age of vessels involved is also a factor, with the majority of those incidents occurring in Canada, Russia and the Great Lakes being vessels with the highest average ages of 28 to 31 years.
“One of the reasons is that these regions see many small locally operating vessels, or vessels that possess specialisms that are hard to replace, such as icebreaking tugs in the Arctic ports,” said Mr Li. “For example, 156 Canadian flagged vessel casualties averaged 31 years and 127 Russian flagged vessels averaged 26 years.”
Passenger vessels continue to be the most at risk in terms of potential fatalities due to the large number of passengers on board. Throughout last year, 418 people lost their lives with another 138 missing, a far deadlier year than 2013, when 201 were killed and another 149 reported missing.
“The shipping community must not slacken in ensuring the meeting of safety regulations and the propagation of safety knowledge and best practice,” said Mr Li. “Extra care should be taken amongst passenger vessels and those operating in Northern Europe and South East Asia, which will continue to be hotspots for casualty incidents.”
For more maritime news see IHS Maritime