According to the Marine Casualties Report 2000- 2010 from the Norwegian Maritime Directorate (NMD) released today, there has been a general increase in ship accidents in Norwegian waters. While most companies and operators have high levels of competency and high safety standards, others may bend the rules, for financial reasons or for lack of knowledge about safety standards, according to the NMD. It noted that while ship accidents have gone up, occupational accidents have declined on a yearly basis.

A steady increase in passenger vessel accidents have also been recorded since 2006, driven up mostly by domestic car ferries, with ramp contact being the most common accident. While the consequences of accidents involving passenger vessels were relatively minor during the 2000 to 2010 time span, because of the number of people that could be involved, the potential of major accidents is considerable in some contexts, the NMD stated.

The main causes for 40 percent of the incidents were technical failures; human factors contributed to the other 60 percent. The NMD stated that while technical errors occur, the emergency operating systems on bridges were not always used. There were different reasons for this, including lack of system understanding, training and practice. The report said that fault drills were not held often enough and that drills often focus on the same fault condition every time.

Thirteen fatalities occurred on passenger vessels over the period of which seven were occupational, including six caused by falls and one exposure to high voltage. Two passengers died from falling down staircases; one died as a result of a criminal act; one in connection with recreational activities and one from natural causes. One driver also perished while boarding a ferry.

For all kinds of vessels, a total of 495 incidents were recorded for 2010, including 246 occupational accidents, 101 groundings, 50 contacts with piers and bridges, 32 fires and explosions, 24 collisions, and a variety of other incidents.

Cargo vessels represented 210 of the recorded incidents; passenger ships (mostly ferries); 150; fishing vessels, 140; and mobile offshore units, three. (In 2009, there were more than 8,000 Norwegian vessels operating in Norwegian waters, including 5,400 active fishing vessels.) The incidents by foreign-flag vessels were mainly caused by tankers.

The increase in ship accidents was due to more groundings and contact damage, the latter increasing sharply from 18 in 2006 to 50 in 2010.

By 2010, fires and explosions were the third most frequent type of accident.

The vast majority of the incidents resulted in limited damage, although there were 15 fatalities in 2010, of which 12 people died in connection with occupational accidents. Over the past 10 years, 60 percent of the fatalities have been occupational, according to the report.

Recurring factors in accidents include failure to use a lookout, the distribution of tasks onboard, administrative burdens, inattention, too little sleep or shift schedules that stretch over many weeks, lack of maintenance, poor ergonomic solutions, etc.

The NMD’s report also said that it appears that many shipowners focus on repairing the damage, correcting the apparent direct causes of an accident, and hoping that it never happens again. There is, however, much to be learned from a thorough analysis of accidents and near accidents, the NMD wrote. The underlying causes may remain latent in the vessels and can be only a matter of time before another incident. Effective preventive measures must focus on human, technical and not least organizational factors.

Passenger vessels covered by the report include car ferries and ro-ro passenger ships, including Hurtigruten, Color Line and Fjord Line, but does not mention any incidents involving foreign-flag cruise ships.