DNV monitors the annual frequency of serious accidents. Over the past five years, there has been an increasing incidence of serious navigational accidents in several shipping segments. This increase is confirmed by a lot of the leading insurance companies such as Skuld, Norwegian Hull Club and The Swedish Club.

In addition to the increasing frequency of navigational accidents, the cost of each repair caused by accidents is rising. The yards are overbooked, making it hard to find a repair slot resulting in increased prices. Collisions, groundings and contacts now account for 60% of the most costly accidents.

Dr. Torkel Soma, Principal Safety Consultant in DNV Maritime, says: “DNV’s statistics shows that a ship is twice as likely to be involved in a serious grounding, collision or contact accident today compared to only five years ago. In addition, estimates show that also the costs of these accidents have doubled. Since this is the general trend for the international commercial fleet, the maritime industry needs to act on this immediately.”

The boom in the shipping market and increased deliveries of newbuildings has resulted in pressure on crews. The shortage of officers has resulted in lower retention and faster promotion. As a result, the general level of experience is decreasing on board. At the same time new technical solutions have been introduced which might have increased the complexity of operations.

Dr. Soma pinpoint: “Reliable technology and complying manuals are no assurance against making errors. Collisions, groundings and contact accidents do almost always involve human acts.”

The latest figures were presented at a DNV seminar in Singapore today. Helge Kjeøy, regional manager DNV Maritime South East Asia says: “The main factors explaining the negative developments over the past few years are - that the undersupply of crew worldwide results in reduced experience and that the high commercial pressure results in a high workload. Adding new and more complex equipment does not only help the situation. Avoiding accidents under such situations requires a good safety culture, something which the maritime industry evidently needs to focus more on.”

The experience of leading shipping companies shows that the focus has to be turned more in the direction of human elements and organisational factors, including all those involved - from the directors of the company to the officers on the bridge. Dr. Soma summarize: “Radical safety performance improvements with reduced accident frequency have been achieved through a structured approach addressing behaviour and culture. For the industry to maintain its traditional good track record, the resilience of operations has to be addressed on a larger scale by industry players.”