IMO World Maritime Day theme this year was ” IMO Conventions: Effective Implementation”, so the point is- Are we doing enough? Is the implementation of regulation effective in Industry? Should we need more regulation? I have my own views on these questions. I believe that the industry is under performing and besides all good practices, the reality is worse than you think. However, IMO has a lot of initiatives to support the effective implementation for the Flag States and the Port State Control.
Data in picture below is from IHS Fairplay published at DNV GL Maritime Impact 01-2014 show that the accident ration is growing over time. The trend line goes up and that means we have an underperforming industry. Unfortunately, many people have the perception that we do many things for safety in the industry however in the last five year major accidents happened, starting with Deepwater Horizon back in April 2010, then we had Rena on October 5th 2011, Costa Concordia in 2012, MOL Comfort in 2013 and the Sewol ferry tragedy this year.
Regarding MOL Comfort it doesn’t make sense how a new containership only five years old, built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries – one of the best shipyards in the world , classed by ClassNK – one of the best classification societies in the world , operated by Mitsui OSK Lines – one of the best operators in the world, broke into two parts in the middle of the Indian ocean. How can something like this happen? You can draw your own conclusions on that. Looking at these five high profile accidents, we can draw many unfortunate conclusions. The first one is that despite what you think, this is a repetitive trend with a fixed frequency of one year. The second one is that, besides the Sewol and the Rena, all the others were new constructions. It’s worth mention that there is no tanker accident; it is interesting that we don’t have any tanker accident for so long. Then we have civil consequences as a common outcome – in the case of Deepwater Horizon the cost for BP is about 50 to 80 billion dollars, operators of Rena today don’t operate any ships. The Costa Concordia case has cost billions to the industry so far and the company of Sewol has shut down operations.
All of these accidents have happened to close proximity of public eye meaning that the mass media had access to photos, videos etc – believe or not this is a problem. In all these cases we have the common feature of very slow progress in their investigation. From example in Costa Concordia even IMO Sec-Gen has repeatedly asked for investigation, the investigation produced by the Italian Authorities is considered as substandard by many industry insiders, so we will never found out what actually happened for many reasons. What most of the people discuss about the accident is that the captain left the ship but nothing about what really happened. Despite the fact that we have similar accidents like Costa Concordia such as one in Greece in April 2007 (Sea Diamond), we have slow progress on the investigations; however the market is very rapid on its response. For example in Costa Concordia again, CLIA agreed on a number of measures within one month after the accident, the same applies with MOL Comfort and Sewol. Regarding Deepwater Horizon; such cases normally end up with a conclusion after 20-30 years. However the US Authorities have been very fast on assigning responsibility and trying to minimize any such future incidents.
In addition, I believe that we need a new unit in the industry to measure oil pollution. If you go to any industry, you will see specific units for measurement. For example in Astrophysics, NASA counts the distance by using parsec, in Formula they don’t measure distance in meters but in seconds. For the shipping industry, I suggest to measure oil pollution equivalent to Exxon Valdez, for example Deepwater Horizon resulted in 4.9 mio barrels which is equivalent to 10x Exxon Valdez, Rena resulted in 2,500 barrels equivalent to 1/200 x Exxon Valdez in order to evaluate the consequences in relation to the largest oil spill in the maritime history
Above article is an edited version of Apostolos Belokas presentation during 2014 SAFETY4SEA Forum
More details may be found by viewing his Presentation video