Sep 052007

Göteborg: August 29th, 2007 – Release from The Swedish Club

Study of major accidents highlights “Competence erosion”

Serious marine accidents are on the increase, according to The Swedish Club. Commenting on the findings of a new Club report on collisions and contact damage, Managing Director Frans Malmros says: “We saw fewer major accidents in the 1990s, but we are now experiencing a disturbing reversal of that positive trend.“The truth is unpalatable. The most likely explanation for an increase in the serious accident rate is a fall in crew experience and, thus, lower competence levels, exacerbated by stress and fatigue.”

These conclusions are contained in a review of collision and contact cases dealt with by the Club in the two years to end-2006. The accidents include collision and contact damages in port approaches, coastal waters and the Exclusive Economic Zone. The study focused on the causal factors linked to failure to follow standard operating procedures, instructions for critical shipboard operations (where an error might immediately cause an accident threatening people, the environment and the ship) and emergency response actions.

Frans Malmros warns: “Since 2000 there has been an increase in the number of new recruits to shipping, but this is coupled with lower retention and faster promotion. People now have less time to get to know their ship. Meanwhile, the paperwork and inspection-related workload continues to mushroom, but the average crew size is static.

“Around half of all accidents at sea can be traced back to fundamental navigation bridge system failures – leading to collisions, groundings and contact damages. The problem is not necessarily attributable to crew size, but there is certainly a direct correlation with a generic loss of experience.

“This is a significant stress factor, in its own right, for those more experienced seafarers who face the constant challenge of training the inexperienced. Clearly, this state of affairs is unsatisfactory and the implications of our findings offer sufficient grounds for the launch of a new joint industry initiative. The tanker shipping and cruise sectors are in an excellent position to take the lead here, as operating requirements in these areas are especially stringent. Meanwhile, The Swedish Club continues to make a significant global contribution, through the Maritime Resource Management (MRM) training programme. This is now available at 24 training providers in 15 countries around the world.”

The co-pilot system; the ‘co-pilot’ monitors the pilot’s actions being ready, at all times, to take over the controls.

The Swedish Club’s report includes recommendations for positive change. They include:

• Longer periods of introduction for new recruits.

• More effective time management by Deck Officers, who should have the flexibility to defer non-essential/non-urgent administrative tasks, in the interests of avoiding fatigue.

• Recognition that officers responsible for shipboard training need sufficient time to carry out these important training duties.

• Close monitoring of crew competence levels, especially the competence of personnel responsible for critical shipboard operations.

• More emphasis on pre-planning (e.g. reinforcing bridge manning when reaching critical areas).

• Steps to eliminate the risk that an error on the part of a single individual could result in a disastrous situation.

• Encourage the use of all means of establishing the ship’s position, so that if one method is no longer reliable, others are immediately accessible.

• Make use of passage planning and navigational systems which allow continuous monitoring and detection of deviation from track when in coastal waters.

• Ensure that junior bridge team members understand that they must never hesitate to question a decision from a higher ranking officer, should doubt arise.

• The report strongly advocates the adoption of the “co-pilot” principle. Frans Malmros adds: “Under this system the ‘pilot’ has control of the vessel and the ‘co-pilot’ monitors the pilot’s actions and keeps a lookout. The success of this system depends on a free flow of information between the two and a rigorous procedure requiring the positive reporting of actions and intended actions. The ‘co-pilot’ should be ready, at all times, to question the actions and intentions of the ‘pilot’.

The Swedish Club
The Swedish Club was founded in 1872. It is a leading mutual marine insurance company, owned and controlled by its members. The Club writes Hull & Machinery, War Risks, Protection & Indemnity, Loss of Hire, Freight Demurrage & Defence and any additional insurance required by shipowners. The head office is located in Göteborg, Sweden, and branch offices are located in Piraeus, Hong Kong and Tokyo.

As at August 29th the Club covered 1,923 vessels for Hull & Machinery, 837 vessels for P&I and 509 vessels for FD&D.

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