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Safety Questions Left Unanswered

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Nautilus, has expressed concern at a new study highlighting the failure of many major ship registries to produce accident investigation reports on time – or at all. The Union says valuable lessons that could prevent seafarer deaths are being lost because of the negligence of certain flag states.

A report produced by the bulk carrier owners’ organisation Intercargo shows that less than half the bulk carrier losses in the past decade have been the subject of investigation reports published on the International Maritime Organisation’s GISIS database.

The report was published a year after two bulk carrier casualties – the Stellar Daisy and the Emerald Star – claimed the lives of 32 seafarers, the highest annual loss of lives since 2011.

Intercargo said the incidents raised questions about structural integrity and the safety condition of high-density cargoes such as iron ore and nickel ore. Investigation reports are still awaited on both losses, and Intercargo said it hoped these would ‘provide answers to the questions and highlight the lessons to be learnt’.

The owners’ organisation also pointed to concerns over the safe carriage of ammonium nitrate-based fertiliser – prompted by incidents such as the fire onboard the Bibby vessel Cheshire last year – and said new legislation is urgently required to avoid repeats.

‘Lessons learnt from past incidents play an important role in determining where additional safety improvement is necessary,’ it added. ‘The importance of flag states’ timely submission of casualty reports to IMO should be stressed, as a means for identifying the cause of incidents and enabling corrective actions to be taken.’

Intercargo pointed out that liquefaction is the most common cause of lives lost on bulk carriers over the past decade, but reports have been submitted to the IMO in only two-thirds of these cases. The most common cause of bulker losses is grounding, yet only 10 of the 22 incidents over the past decade have resulted in investigation reports to the IMO. 

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Overall, its report noted, only 24 of the 53 bulker losses since 2008 have been the subject of investigation reports to the IMO. Flag states failing to file any reports include Belize, China, Comoros, Cyprus, the Marshall Islands, Mexico, Mongolia and Vietnam.

Panama had filed only 15 reports to GISIS out of a total of 25 losses, Intercargo said, and Hong Kong had lodged only two reports from five incidents.

The average time from an incident occurring to a report becoming available via the IMO has been 21.8 months, the report added. Intercargo’s study has been echoed by an analysis conducted by Lloyd’s List which showed that 58% of the very serious incidents over the past four years that should have been the subject of flag state reports to the IMO have not yet been lodged on the public database.

Only 24 of the 53 bulker losses in the past decade have been the subject of reports to the IMO

Lloyd’s List found that of 48 incidents involving Panama-flagged vessels, 20 reports had not been submitted. Indonesia had failed to file a single report on the 26 incidents involving its ships in the past four years, Russia had submitted reports on only three of 17 casualties, and of 11 incidents involving Turkish-flagged ships, only one report had been lodged.

Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson commented: ‘These are really disturbing statistics and this amounts to appalling behaviour by some major flag states. Not only are they not discharging their responsibilities as ship registers, but they are serving up a barrier to a proper safety culture in the shipping industry.

‘The failure to provide transparent and public information on the causes of casualties can mean that we all lose the ability to spot safety trends or to rectify recurring problems,’ he added. ‘It also represents unfair competition for countries such as the UK and the Netherlands, which consistently produce full and thorough reports and have properly staffed and resourced accident investigation boards.’

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About Nautilus International

Nautilus International is the seafarers' union that provides a worldwide network of support and information to seafarers at every stage in their career. The union offers a range of free legal services including advice and mediation on issues such as contracts, redundancy, harrassment, discrimination and non-payment of wages. A 24/7 helpline is available for members providing emergency support via Skype, email, SMS or live-chat, around-the-clock.

This article was originally published in the Nautilus Telegraph.
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