Jun 242014

ID-100141843Painted capstan or windlass drum ends can create hazards, says a safety alert from the Marine Safety Forum. According to the auditor writing to MSF, the dangers are under-appreciated and says that such drums should not be prettied up with paintwork but many masters do not seethe danger.

Some time ago the writer was involved in investigating an incident where a seaman had damaged his wrist during a mooring operation. Part of the root cause was identified as resulting from the capstan drum end having been painted. The last eight ships audited by the writer all had painted capstan or windlass drum ends and two masters argued that there is nothing wrong with painting them.

The problem associated with this practice is that the paint itself is the hazard. Continue reading »

Low Sulphur Power Loss Warning

 maritime safety news, P&I Club, publications  Comments Off on Low Sulphur Power Loss Warning
Oct 192012

UK P&I Club’s latest Risk Focus bulletin highlights the issue of sudden loss of power, a problem that came to the fore in incidents during and after the switch to lower sulphur fuels  now mandated in certain coastal regions. In the bulletin, the club looks at causes of sudden loss of power and proposes mitigating procedures.

The club says that main engine failures or electrical blackouts now amount to 7% of its third party claims property damage in US$ terms. Many were enormously expensive and in some cases amounted to millions of dollars. Ships effectively out of control as a result of these problems have caused extensive damage to berths, locks, bridges, navigational marks, loading arms, cranes and gantries as well as moored ships. Costly collision and grounding claims can similarly be caused by these failures.

Concern about these rising claims prompted the Club to collect data from its risk assessors and analysis more than 700 claims.  Risk Focus: Loss of Power is the third reviewfrom the club’s Bowtie risk management system to be published.

Main engine failures and blackouts tend to occur when the ship is at its most vulnerable. In confined waters or entering and leaving port, the stable loads, which will generally prevail with the ship on passage, are disturbed. There is also some evidence that compliance with the low sulphur fuel regulations and changing from one grade of fuel to another may have exacerbated these problems. Continue reading »

New Stoploss On STS, Inspections and Liquefaction

 P&I, P&I Club, publications  Comments Off on New Stoploss On STS, Inspections and Liquefaction
Feb 252011

StopLoss the London P&I Club’s loss prevention publication is available now in both English and Mandarin. Both versions can be downloaded by clicking here.

Also, spoken versions of StopLoss, again in both English and Mandarin, will very shortly be available as podcasts on Shippingpodcasts.com

Listeners can subscribe to the podcasts via iTunes and can also receive notice of postings on Twitter by following http://twitter.com/jtweed Continue reading »

Strangler In The Fridge Preview

 P&I, P&I Club, pilotage  Comments Off on Strangler In The Fridge Preview
Mar 312008

…Oops, that should have been Stranger On The Bridge, “Strangler In The Fridge” was a sort of code during production. If you want to know what we get up to when not working on Maritime Accident Casebook check out the trailer etc. for Stranger On The Bridge here.

There is a bit of form filling before you get to the link.

2008 – pouring trouble on oiled waters

 MARPOL, oil, P&I, P&I Club, Pollution  Comments Off on 2008 – pouring trouble on oiled waters
Dec 272007

Whatever lays on the other side of the misty horizon of New Year’s Eve one thing is fairly certain: more seafarers will be arrested, fined and jailed following maritime accidents. On particular, punishments for non-compliance with MARPOL regulations will continue to increase to previously unheard of levels, beyond the $13.3 million average per year for the past decade.

In its parting shot for 2007, the Standard Club‘s bulletin for December warns: “…the level of fines will continue to increase until it is felt that the shipping industry is getting its house in order”. We’ll see P&I clubs cracking the whip over their members. Standard warns that those of its members who find themselves facing a MARPOL violation fine will have to prove that they did everything reasonably necessary to avoid non-compliance – with the burden of proof being on the shipowner. After the high level of claims over the past 18 months. P&I club are likely to become more forceful, for shipowners it’ll be a matter of getting into the act or getting out of the club.
 The US is dropping the hammer on violators in a big way and more seafarers will face the agression of the US Coast Guard but, as Standard says: “…these prosecutions and breathtaking fines would not be possible unless engineers persisted in bypassing the oily water separator (OWS), dumping sludge overboard and falsifying the oil record book. Most prosecutions are based upon physical evidence in the form of pipes and hoses, confessions or testimony of engineers or circumstantial evidence gleaned from oil record books. In some cases, so called ‘whistleblowers’, who stand to gain financially from a successful prosecution, alert the authorities to what is going on onboard….Whatever the source of evidence, it is obvious that these illegal practices continue to exist and are fairly widespread in the shipping industry…” And it isn’t just marginal operators who are guilty of trying to play fast and loose with MARPOL, it’s some household names, too.

Practices range from by-passing oily water separators and their alarms to simply throwing oily sludge from filters and purifier over the side. In the case of prosecution by US authorities, the discharge does not have to be inside its jurisdiction. Crew and shipowners find themselves faced with falsifying records, such as the oil record book, concealing equipment used to bypass the oily water separator or the destruction of documents such as engine room logs whioch amount to obstruction of justice.

So, yes, they are out to get you.

Money, of course, is a key. Standard highlights: “….failing to purchase and install the best available technology, limiting the discharge of oil waste in port, cutting corners on maintenance, generally incentivising chief engineers to keep within budget regardless of any operational problems and failing to ensure adequate experienced manning of the engine room…problems can also arise as a result of poor systems of shoreside management control over the waste management process, due to inadequate training and auditing to ensure compliance. In other cases, there are cultural aspects resulting
in a rigid hierarchy in the engine room, which actively discourages junior engineers from questioning any improper practices and, if necessary, directing such concerns to shoreside management… There are also cases that have resulted from the deliberate acts of individual engineers, either as a result of laziness or incompetence. These so-called ‘bad apples’ are often the stated reason given by the ship operator for the practices onboard, although this should not always be taken at face value. There may be reasons for engineers acting improperly if they feel they have not received sufficient training or support, in the form of proper equipment and spares, in order to deal with the normal and sometimes abnormal operational problems in the engine room.”

In brief, then, MARPOL violations result from company cultures in which certain crewmen are encouraged to short-circuit waste management systems, given inadequate systems and training in the first place, where monitoring compliance is poor and where shipboard culture discourages the questioning of improper practices and discourages seafarers who are aware of them from doing anything about it.

Those seafarers, of course, will be the ones facing the inside of a prison cell.

Violating MARPOL isn’t good business practice. It’s dumb. Over the next year it won’t just be arrest happy USCG personnel and income-happy political administrations but other countries, too, which will be impressing upon shipowners and crew just how dumb dumping oil is.

 Posted by at 11:48

P&I Runs For Cover As A Gloomy 2008 Hovers

 maritime accidents, P&I Club  Comments Off on P&I Runs For Cover As A Gloomy 2008 Hovers
Nov 282007

Steve Harris, a Lloyds marine broker who trains P&I Club personnel and administers the Maritime Web Award gave a gloomy prediction of prospects for 2008 in a comment on this blog:

“There has been a seemingly inexorable rise in the number and severity of crew related incidents, that has caused alarm bells to be rung within the P&I insurance world. The rapidly expanding world fleet has now exhausted the available, experienced pool of seafarers. More and more vessels are having to use greater numbers of inexperienced crew members. Add to this a cocktail of some operators, desperate to keep their vessels operating (with the current enormous freight rates), cutting back on any regular maintenance that might delay the vessel and also vessel charterers, pushing for “corners” to be cut off vessel operating costs, and we end up with a dangerous recipe leading to increases in accidents and crew injury/deaths. 2008 will see more hefty increases in P&I club calls (probably over 20% increases across most of the mutual clubs) and this will continue until someone starts taking maritime safety a bit more seriously.”

Most shipowners are members of a protection and indemnity club – a mutual insurance association or P&I Club. The largest P&I Clubs are members of the International Group which operates a pool to which its members contribute and out of which claims that are too big for a single member are paid.

To judge by the sound of the pitter patter of P&I Clubs running for cover, Steve’s gloomy prediction is coming to pass. The Japan Club recently announced an increase of 20 per cent in premiums for its members. It’s a thought provoking move in a highly competitive industry.

With the past week the American Club has also announced a 20 per cent increase due, in part, to “rising wage settlements and enhanced employment benefits in response to a diminishing global crew resource are driving up death and personal injury claims.  At the same time, a lack of experienced crew may be increasing the current incidence and future likelihood of maritime casualties, given the importance of the “human element” in the causation of large claims in particular” says the Club’s chairman, Joseph Hughes.

Frans Malmros of the Swedish Club says: “Last year was difficult, in terms of the number and cost of major P&I claims. This year, so far, has seen a return to normality. In fact, during the first six months P&I claims costs were significantly lower than budget. This positive trend ended in the Summer, however, with a number of significant, incidents.” The Club will be announcing its response anytime now.

Meanwhile, Shipowner’s Mutual, in a circular to its members last month, said: ” During the 2006 policy year and throughout the first half of 2007, we have seen a sharp increase in the value of claims from every vessel sector without exception.”

Last month Britannia came to the decision: “an advance call increase of 15% was
necessary to address the anticipated continuing high level of claims costs.”

he UK P&I Club considered increasing it’s premiums by 17.5 per cent but fell back to 10 per cent. Most notable, the UK P&I Club comments: “The increase in P&I claims across the shipping industry has made – and continues to make – heavy demands on the International Group of P&I Clubs’ Pool…claims on the 2006/7 policy year which ended on February 20th are expected to be the worst for 15 years. A record payout of more than US$550 million by the clubs is envisaged…Further, the Pool claims for the first half of the 2007/8 policy year (up to August 20th) were even higher than in the first half of 2006.” It’s been the highest for 15 years.

One reason why the UK P&I Club dropped back to 10 per cent was that the 17.5 per cent would have “impacted unfairly on some members”. To read this as a straw in the wind, an omen that the clubs are heading towards forcefully telling shipowners to shape up or ship out when it comes to safety are not far-fetched, indeed, senior P&I Club executives have said as much privately.

What the P&I Clubs are doing is battening down the hatches to weather what they see as a stormy 2008.

Part of the problem is that the current growth of demand means that older vessels with aging equipment are not being retired as early so maintenance issues are ever more critical. Poor maintenance plays a significant part in equipment-related maritime incidents and almost certainly will increase.

Another issue: experienced seafarers are leaking away from the industry because it doesn’t provide the conditions and pay to justify the hardships of the job, many are discouraged from seeking promotion so officer levels are not being filled, so maritime manpower is becoming less and less experienced. Less experience means less aware of the hazards that lead to maritime accidents.

Then there is the issue of training standards, which are often low in many of the countries  seen as potential providers of seafarers, and key manpower providing nations are in denial about the situation. Much training is aimed at getting a certificate, not acquiring competency and, indeed, as pointed out in an earlier post, the industry has yet to get its head around the concept of competency.

Until competency is taken on board and embraced we’ll simply be developing incompetent seafarers and insurance premiums will continue to rise.

Poorly trained, inexperienced seafarers on undermanned ships don’t promise a rosy future.

There is, frankly, a further issue. Look at the key manpower providing today and it’s fairly obvious that the main recruiting agent for the maritime industry today is poverty.  It might come up with the necessary numbers of warm bodies but it isn’t going to come up with recruits with the drive, discipline and leadership skills necessary for senior positions aboard ship.

Indeed, to be brutal, in many of those jurisdictions anyone with the sort of gumption and skill needed by the maritime industry is likely to be incommunicado behind bars or face down dead in a ditch. Initiative and leadership is often discouraged in those domains among the very people that the industry is recruiting.

Traditionally the maritime industry as a whole is conservative. It changes slowly and learns slowly.

Some might argue that such gloomy predictions are inappropriate as the festive season of joy and jollity hovers on the doorstep waiting to be let in, but then it’s likely that for an uncomfortable number of seafarers this could be their last Christmas.

Article of interest – 2006 – worse year for accident claims

 accident reporting, claims, maritime accidents, P&I Club  Comments Off on Article of interest – 2006 – worse year for accident claims
Sep 072007

The full text of the following can be found here

The People Problem 06 September 2007

P&I clubs are counting the cost of the worst group claims year on record in 2006, and naturally much of the talk on how to reduce the cost and number of incidents is focussing on the human factor, according to Jerry Westmore, managing director of Marsh’s Global Marine and Energy Practice.

“For the clubs the issue is the claims levels of 2006 and the fear that claims will increase,” he says.

“A major concern continues to be the potential crew shortages and it is an issue which is affecting everyone at present.”

Mr Westmore said the problem was not just the lack of training and qualified crew, but also the ability to retain crews.

“Retention remains as difficult as recruitment,” he adds. “We are seeing ever bigger and more sophisticated vessels which are in themselves more expensive and they are carrying more expensive cargos.

“There is a different dynamic with the newer more technical ships because, while they may need smaller crews than in the past, those crews have to be more technically competent in order to operate them. One problem is that increasingly entry level seafarers are no longer technically or educationally capable of rising through the ranks to become the officers of the future.”

 Posted by at 09:57