Ship Accident

Ship Accident:Some General Facts

Ship accident represents a major marine disaster since the historic days. Even in the age of modern ship building technology and innovative navigation equipment, ship accidents are an important area of maritime concern, including the loss of lives and huge financial implications. In the categorization of ship accident or marine accident, generally we can put them in some important broad brackets based on some known causal factors- (i) Natural disasters (ii)Casualties owing to mechanical failure (iii) Navigational mistakes (iii) Operational accidents during cargo handling(iv) Ignorance or human-mistakes by the crew and/or passengers (v) Damage caused by cargo-shifting due to poor stowage. The stories of ship accident or marine accident, we often hear mostly pertain to fire, capsizing, collision, grounding, on-board damage owing to cargo shifting.

Ship Accident: Fire

The most dreaded ship accident is from fire. Without doubt, the sources that lead to the this devastating calamity can include any imaginable possibility – right from cigarette butt to any engine-room disaster. Just to narrate one example of marine accident, in March 2006 a fire was detected on board a Jamaica bound cruise ship Star Princess with
2690 passengers and 1123 crew on board. It was apparently caused by a discarded cigarette butt eventually heating up some combustible materials on a balcony, which smoldered for about 20 minutes before flames developed. Once established, the fire erupted rapidly along adjacent balconies and driven by a strong wind, it spread quickly over the decks. As the fire progressed, large volume of dense black smoke were generated from the combustible materials on the balconies. The smoke swept into state rooms and alleyways, and eventually hindered the evacuation of the passengers. That ship accident claimed life of a passenger and thirteen others were treated for the effects of the smoke.
In the interest of prevention of ship accidents that relate to fire, many regulations have come in force. The transport of dangerous goods and marine pollutants in sea vessels is regulated by the International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL). The terms of both SOLAS and MARPOL, have been developed in detail and included in the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) codes within the world governing body the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

Ship Accident: Grounding

The ship accident owing to grounding of a ship is often linked to the lack of navigational expertise and alertness. The marine accident of this nature usually involves the impact of a vessel on the seabed, resulting in structural damage to the submerged hull, causing water leakage. The risk of such ship accident is high when the ship is required to negotiate shallow navigation channels, bars and tight bends without adequate navigational aids. Just to cite an example, in June 1995, a Panamanian passenger ship Royal Majesty grounded on Rose and Crown Shoal about 10 miles east of Nantucket Island, Massachusetts. After several unsuccessful attempts, the Royal Majesty, with the aid of five tugboats, was freed from its strand. Initial damage surveys revealed deformation of the vessel’s double bottom hull. However, no penetration or cracking of the hull was detected, and no fuel oil had been spilled. Damage to the vessel and lost revenue, however, were estimated at about $7 million. As revealed in many maritime accident investigations, the important factor traced was the inadequacy of training standards for watch-standers aboard vessels equipped with electronic navigation systems and integrated bridge systems. Another reason has to do with the fatigue factor of the guard of the company. Long cycle trip in time, the altered patterns of clock, long hours, sleep problems, stress and pressures of work, in relationships on board - all these factors make dilute the alertness of the guard maintenance crew.

Ship Accident: Collision

Collision, another kind of ship accident, other accidents of ships can be avoided if the vessels comply strictly with the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea 1972, which came into force in 1977. Common factors contributing to the majority of collisions are poor watch-keeping and the inefficient use of radar. As technology has advanced with regard to radar and ARPA, and the number of crew on vessels has decreased in parallel with increased automation, it is inevitable that bridge watch keeping practices have changed in recent years. To prevent ship accidents like collision, proper use shall be made of radar equipment fitted and operational, including long range scanning to obtain early warning of risk of collision and radar plotting or equivalent systematic observation of
detected objects. Also, emphasis is placed on the use of sound signals and VHF as a measure of alertness.

Ship Accident:

Many operations related accidents relate to stevedoring operations, including ship-board and the ground cargo handling activities. The stevedoring companies organize and assign workers on-board a ship for cargo discharge and shipment. Ship accidents occur often in handling break-bulk cargo because of high manual involvement. On the contrary, these accidents are few in handling dry bulk, tanker and containers, as in those operations cargo handling is more mechanized. Moreover, general cargo usually comes in heterogeneous forms and units increasing the scope of manual handling. The general or break-bulk cargo - the heterogeneity in the size, shape or weight, lack of cargo unitizations cargo - all these factors limit the scope of mechanization and ,in turn increases the involvement of direct labor.

Ship Accident: Shifting of Cargo

Often the lower quality stowage becomes the cause of shifting of cargo within the hatches thereby damaging the bulk-head and the cargo itself. After on-board stowing of the load - depending on the type, size and weight of the cargo - it must be properly lashed and secured. Otherwise, at sea - when a ship is subject to heavy rolling and pitching - the poorly stacked cargo may shift and hit the bulk-head or other packages causing ship accident.

In final analysis, majority of the attributing factors for ship accident can be traced to the lack of adherence to the safety norms and standards, lack of human alertness, faulty judgments/miscalculations and ill-trained on-board personnel or crew.

In the context of ship accident, it is also important to mention about the safety of boats and yachts, which have also high risk of damage and collision as the waterways get more crowded overtime. Boat accidents include those maritime accidents that happen on the high seas and may also involve recreational boaters, jet skiers, seamen, and others. This emphasizes the growing need for having an effective Boat Insurance cover.
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