Safety at sea has improved significantly over the past decade and losses in both human lives and vessels have decreased. Still, there is cause for concern. The positive safety development can be slowed down by new technology and new fuels, warns DNV and Lloyd’s list.
The ship Almirante Storni, which had been burning outside Vinga for a week, had barely been towed into the port of Gothenburg before the reports of another major shipping accident on Swedish waters came. Last night, two cargo ships collided on the Baltic Sea, one of which capsized and ended up upside down. There were two people on board who were still missing at the time of writing.
When two such serious accidents happen in a short time, it can be difficult to grasp that the number of ship accidents is decreasing. But they do. Between 2012 and 2021, ship losses in world shipping decreased by 56% and the number of deaths fell from 1,900 a year to 1,400.
At the same time, the world fleet grew from 116,000 to 130,000 ships. It shows a new report, Maritime safety 2012-2021: a decade of progress, from Lloyd’s list and DNV.
“Measures such as digitized systems, modern class rules, better vessels, tighter regulatory supervision and, crucially, an improved safety culture have contributed to this welcome safety trend,” said Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen, CEO of DNV Maritime in a press release.
But already earlier this year, DNV warned in the report Closing the safety gap in an era of transformation that the focus on increased digitization and reduced carbon dioxide emissions creates new safety risks in shipping. This concerns fire and explosion risks as well as security issues around increasingly complex digital systems.
”There can be no trade-off between safety and sustainability. As shipping pursues a path towards decarbonization, this will require a rethink of risk management with a renewed focus on human and organisational factors to ensure safety remains at the core of the development of new fuel systems and digitalized ways of working,” Ørbeck-Nilssen continues.
Almost half (48%) of the total of 21,746 accidents during the ten-year period were due to damage to the hull and engine (H&M) and surprisingly, there was an increase in just such incidents on ships that are between 10 and 14 years old, which DNV thinks is worrying .
“The major challenge is to close the safety gap emerging from cyber threats, new technologies and new fuels. Mitigation of these risks will be vital going forward to realise the enormous potential benefits of digital and low-carbon fuel technologies for safety, efficiency and sustainability towards a goal of continuous improvement,” added Ørbeck-Nilssen and notes that despite a positive trend, there is no room for complacency.