Despite the advantages in training, advantages in technology onboard ship, we are still getting ships running aground, so something is amiss. What's going wrong? Why are we concerned about it?

The concern firstly arises from cost considerations. The table below is rather difficult to interpret of first glance. What it shows is the development of claims on the International Group pool in the first 6 months of the underwriting year, as at the 20th August of each underwriting year as shown in the top line, and then the development of those claims in 12-month intervals thereafter. You can see from that, what we know already is that 2006-2007 had been the worst two years on record. If you track along to 2012 you can see that in the first six months of 2012 claims notified were around about double the previously highest level, and in 2013 things are not looking good either. Claims of US$96.7 million notified in the first six months of 2013, so that's the background to the concern.




If we drill down to look at some of these claims and try to understand what is causing them, from the following chart for the last six years you can see the number of groundings in pure numbers and then expressed as a percentage of the total by number and a percentage by value. What is evident from that is that there is a consistent imbalance between the percentage by number and value. There is a significantly greater cost of these incidents. If you look at the combined figures on the right hand side, which take into account collisions and damaged to fixed objects that involve similar errors to those that cause groundings, then you can see that these incidents are the ones that are having the most significant impact on the International Group pool and the excess loss reinsurance contract arrangements.



Some of the causes of these incidents, in no particular order, are:

  • Fatigue - with or without the involvement of alcohol
  • Deviations from passage plans
  • Poor risk assessment
  • Poor bridge resource management
  • Poor decision-making
  • Complacency
  • Cultural issues
  • Collective experience

What we find in these incidents is that it's generally not ONE particular matter that is making the dominant call. It's a bit like a buffet; there is a selection here, it's a mix and match and you have a number of factors combining to cause these incidents. So, we are going to do just a bit gratuitous scaremongering to demonstrate really the issues that are out there and why we are concerned.

The Shen Neng 1, a bulk carrier, grounded on the Great Barrier Reef in April 2010. The Rena, a well-known casualty, ran aground on the Astrolabe Reef in October 2011, giving rise to what is the second largest ever a wreck removal claim on the International Group. There are similarities between this incident and the Shen Neng 1; there was a variation in the passage plan.

There have been other incidents, happily ones that have not resulted in such catastrophic consequences but that is simply more a matter of luck than judgment. For example the small container ship, the K-Wave, aground near Malaga in February 2011. Why? It was the third officer's birthday!

A similar tale arises with Karin Schepers, another small container ship. She was on passage from Cork to Rotterdam across the Irish Sea. Also, there have been many casualties that have occurred that indicate a certain lack of consciousness on the bridge (Alva Star, Cafer Dede, Coastal Isle, Beaumont).


Best Practice to Avoid Grounding:

  • Proper Passage Planning
  • Vigilant Watchkeeping
  • Regular Position Fixing
  • Good Bridge Resource Management
  • Fatigue Management
  • Avoiding Complacency
  • Superintendence
  • Mentoring


Above article is an edited version of Mr Chris Adams's presentation during 2013 SAFETY4SEA Athens Forum

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