In October 2018, the Tunisian ferry Ulysse collided with the container ship CSL Virginia in the Mediterranean Sea after the officer on watch was found to have been distracted by a mobile phone.

An investigation into the collision concluded that the ferry’s officer on watch was on his own, on the phone and away from the radar.

Additionally, a series of human errors, including an overreliance on electronic charts, led to the grounding and total loss of the Maltese registered 2,194 TEU capacity container ship 'Kea Trader' in the Pacific Ocean on 12 July 2017.

According to the incident report, the grounding of the six-month-old ship was the result of the deck officer’s mistakes and overconfidence in the vessel’s electronic navigation chart.

The grounding of the Kea Trader was one of the most complex container ship salvages since the 2011 grounding of the MV Rena in New Zealand in 2011.

A year and a half after the vessel struck a reef, the wreck removal operation was still ongoing at the end of 2018, with initial efforts focusing on preventing pollution and the removal of over 750 containers.

We have seen serious losses from an overreliance on electronic chart displays and human error on the part of crew. We now have a generation of seafarers that have grown up trusting what they see on a screen. Without appropriate training, however, they can be lulled into a false sense of security,

...notes Captain Andrew Kinsey, Senior Marine Consultant at AGCS.

  • It is estimated that 75% to 96% of marine accidents can involve human error.
  • An AGCS analysis of almost 15,000 marine liability insurance claims between 2011 and 2016 shows human error to be a primary factor in 75% of the value of all claims analyzed – equivalent to over $1.6bn of losses.

How an operator takes care of the crew can be seen in the claims pattern. Good conditions, working hours, salaries and opportunities for career development, as well as access to training, fresh air and exercise will all help improve crew quality,

...says Justus Heinrich, Chief Underwriter Marine Hull, Central and Eastern Europe at AGCS.

Yet a survey of 2,800 maritime employees by recruiter Halcyon Recruitment and training provider Coracle reveals decreasing confidence in shipping industry job security, as volatile market conditions continue to impact.

Over half of shore-based employees surveyed are actively looking to change jobs with nearly two thirds worried about job security.

Crew costs are a soft factor in what is a cost-conscious industry. This will be an area to watch as ship owners face the increased cost of operating under the IMO's pollution prevention treaty MARPOL Annex VI emissions cap, Heinrich predicts.

My fear is that we could see an increase in human error and claims related to fatigue or a lack of crew engagement. As part of client risk analysis, insurers such as AGCS now routinely dig deeper into the quality of crewing to see if operators are doing more than the required minimum,

...says Heinrich.

Did you know?

$1.6bn value of marine insurance losses involving some form of human error, based on analysis of almost 15,000 liability claims.