Learning lessons from incidents and casualties and sharing of experience have proven to be effective approaches to raise safety awareness and are vital to deepen understanding and knowledge of existing rules, regulations and skills. Continued focus on safety awareness and safety measures helps to close gaps in understanding and reduces the potential for similar casualties involving bulk and ore carriers.
All too frequently however, there is a significant delay between the time at which a report, or an initial report, is submitted by an accident investigating organisation and the point at which that information becomes publicly available. Industry observation reveals that some investigations focused on the immediate causes but demonstrated a lack of effort to understand the root cause of the incidents.
The bulk carrier industry should not be reluctant to make bold changes to ship design in order to further improve the safety and survivability of dry bulk vessels. Flag state reports of casualties must question and strive to alter existing SOLAS, MARPOL, LOADLINE, IMSBC Codes and conventions if crew lives are to be saved.
Every year, the INTERCARGO Bulk Carrier Casualty Report provides an analysis of casualty statistics covering the previous 10 years. During the 10-year period from 2012 to 2021, it was reported that 27 bulk carriers over 10,000 deadweight tonnage (dwt) were lost with the death of 92 seafarers. Cargo liquefaction remains the greatest contributor to loss of life and grounding remains the greatest cause of ship losses.
Of the five bulk carrier marine casualties which occurred as a consequence of cargo liquefaction, four vessels carried nickel ore and one carried bauxite. They represented 18.5% of the 27 bulk carrier casualties in the past 10 years. Those casualties led to the loss of 70 seafarer lives, or 76.1% of the total loss of life. Grounding was the most commonly reported cause of bulk carrier losses during the period, causing 13 of the 27 bulk carrier losses reported, corresponding to 48.1% of the total number of losses.
Statistics of ship losses and consequential seafarer fatalities taken from INTERCARGO Bulk Carrier Casualty Reports since 1994 suggest that safety performance of the bulk carrier industry is heading in the right direction, with a clear trend of improvement. The period 2012-2021 saw 2.7 ships lost and 9 lives lost versus 10.5 and 52 respectively during the period 1994 – 2003. However, there is no room for complacency and there are still opportunities for further improvement by re-evaluating and implementing enhanced measures to address cargo safety and safe navigation, thereby striving to eliminate losses in the future.