Inmarsat’s new safety report, which analyses Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) information, registered 853 distress calls from January to December 2022 – up from 794 in 2021.
pecifically, the 2023 edition of The Future of Maritime Safety Report finds that with the number of losses of vessels over 100 gross tonnage (GT) falling by 65% in the last decade, figures for marine casualties and incidents reported remain stubbornly high. Additionally, over the last four years, distress signals registered over Inmarsat RescueNET averaged 810 per year.
- Safety should be prioritised as shipping moves towards greater digitalisation and adopts new fuel and propulsion technology for its decarbonisation journey.
- Seafarer well-being remains a core component of safety and must remain high on the post-pandemic agenda.
- To address safety challenges as shipping transitions to alternative fuels, adopts decarbonisation technologies, and continues to digitalise, regulation, the human element – including human-centric design – and technology must be integrated.
Vessels with most distress calls in 2022
Tankers, container ships and bulk carriers sent the most GMDSS distress calls in 2022 (by rate – the number of calls received/number of vessels in that vessel category), with the lowest number of calls originating from passenger ships.
Moreover, twelve year-old vessels (all types) are responsible for sending the most GMDSS distress calls, according to the report. Regarding gross tonnage, over the two-year analysed period, the highest number of distress calls (by count) originated from vessels over 10,000GT, with 275 in 2022 and 247 in 2021.
Finally, of the 18 flags analysed (57 flag States were removed as their ships sent ten or less distress calls), Panama and Liberia accounted for the highest number of distress signals during 2022, at 73 and 61 respectively, Inmarsat finds.
Improving maritime safety
The Future of Maritime Safety identifies deficiencies in industry attitudes and approaches towards safety, including an “inadequate top-down safety culture”, siloed data that is seldom shared, over-emphasis on human error, poor conditions for seafarers, and the perception of safety as a tick-box exercise. According to Inmarsat, maritime safety can be improved by:
- Broadly adopting goal-based safety standards
- Formalising data collection arrangements
- Creating and utilising a standardised international marine casualty and incident dataset
- Sharing anonymised data between international and national safety bodies.
Inmarsat also adds that rather than defaulting to the development of more regulations, shipping could, in the short-term, adopt an overarching and unifying safety goal and set of underlying KPIs.
This, according to Inmarsat, will enable regulatory impact to be objectively assessed, improvement areas to be prioritised, and the impact of consequent safety initiatives to be measured over time.
While the rapid changes ahead pose challenges, they also afford us a great opportunity: to not simply try to maintain levels of safety, but to improve them. Learning from trends revealed in the oceans of data we have access to is essential.
… said Peter Broadhurst, Senior Vice President, Safety and Regulatory, Inmarsat Maritime
Peter Broadhurst also stated that the industry should change the narrative from a culture of commercial and personal secrecy out of fear of competition and punitive measures to one of transparency and acceptance of safety-related change.
In this way, we can better protect seafarers, vessels and the environment and ensure that safety keeps pace with other aspects of a sustainable transition that is steering shipping towards a new dawn.
… Peter Broadhurst concluded