Nautilus Telegraph, July 2013: In a major departure from its traditional way of doing business, the International Maritime Organisation opened its doors to a broad spread of shipping industry representatives last month to consider the best ways of regulating for safety in the future.
Secretary-general Koji Sekimizu told delegates that he had convened the symposium as a personal initiative to enable the holistic consideration of the best way of responding to technological innovation and the increasing demands from society for safe and environmentally friendly operations.
He said he did not want the meeting to be ‘just another talking shop’ — it should generate new thinking about the future and the way in which safety could be improved through better data and a systematic, scientific risk-based approach.
The two-day meeting heard a series of top-level speakers warning that safety in the industry is under increasing pressure as a result of the economic downturn and the growth of bigger and more complex ships. And the conference was also told that factors such as the growth of social media, increased corporate social responsibility and high-profile incidents such as the Costa Concordia mean that shipping is exposed to increased scrutiny of the way it works.
Bernard Meyer, MD of the German shipbuilding firm Meyer Werft, said he had been deeply shocked by the Costa Concordia accident. ‘I realised then that we cannot continue in the routine way on safety,’ he added. ‘We have to do something.’
DNV Maritime and Oil & Gas president Tor Svensen said the industry should reconsider its approach to safety — putting the focus on ‘big-consequence’ incidents and tackling safety barriers and high-risk areas. The frequency of serious shipping accidents has almost doubled since 2000, reversing an improving trend in the 1990s, and accidents such as the Costa Concordia underline the need for a rethink on safety. Historically, regulations are developed in response to accidents such as the Herald of Free Enterprise, Estonia and Prestige, Mr Svensen pointed out. ‘As an industry, we have to be more proactive — we are always chasing the problem,’ he warned.
Mr Svensen said that the offshore sector offers many lessons for other shipping types. The average accident frequency for general cargoships is six times that of offshore supply vessels, he pointed out, and even though PSVs are among the most technically advanced vessels and are often used for some of the most complicated operations, their safety record is better than that of any other ship type. ‘The achievements within the offshore segment are good,’ Mr Svensen added. ‘Through a technology focused proactive risk management and barrier approach, safety has been improved step by step.’
Jim Peachey, of the Royal Institution of Naval Architects, said some major accidents had revealed the shortcomings of the ‘prescriptive’ regulatory process and as a consequence formal safety assessments and goal-based approaches had been developed. But, he stressed, the pace of change is now so fast that the IMO needs to be more proactive and it should identify trends in design and technology which could have safety implications. One solution could be a ‘foresight panel’ of industry experts who could provide advice at an early stage on developments that might be outside the scope of existing regulations.
Harri Kulovaara, of the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, said passengerships are becoming not just larger but more and more complex — placing a high demand on knowledge and technology management. ‘Constant training and skill enhancement is very important,’ he added. ‘This is an area that we will need to focus on even more closely than we have in the past. The human element contributes to three out of every four accidents, and clearly we have a very big task to improve this.’
He suggested the industry should look to techniques such as psychometric profiling of seafarers, and increased training in stress and crisis management, and action to improve the interface between humans and machines. He said there had been a ‘step change’ in design when risk-based safety methodology was introduced for RCCL’s Oasis class.
Dr Bo Cerup-Simonsen described the ‘dramatic’ increases in the average size of the company’s containerships over the past 45 years — culminating in the launch of its first 18,000TEU Triple-E vessel last month. While energy efficiency is now the biggest factor in containership design, he said the rapid developments affecting the size and complexity of boxships have raised a number of safety challenges — including intact and damage stability, fire hazards, the use of new technology and the human/machine interface. ‘Salvage is a key issue with ships getting bigger,’ he added, ‘and we are putting a lot of effort into a system to ensure that it will work efficiently.’
Chris Bailey, BP Shipping, said the tanker sector had witnessed an overall downward trend in incidents over the past 30 years — although the past decade had seen this in danger of being reversed. There is still a significant rate of death and injury among seafarers, he added, and the industry should do more to understand its people. BP had established its own marine accident investigation unit to look at incidents in a ‘no blame’ way and this has helped it to make positive responses to such things as slips, trips and falls, switchboard design and accidents involving lifeboats and service lifts.
Dr Masayoshi Kawakami, from Niigata Power Systems, pointed to the increasing adoption of ‘green’ engine systems — but cautioned that batteries and gas fuels could bring their own safety challenges.
Claes Berglund, Stena Line’s director of sustainability, said shipping needs to develop as fast as the world around it and suggested that methanol could be the answer for environmentally-friendly operations — offering similar NOx and SOx reductions as LNG. The company is to trial the system on its ferry Stena Germanica next year, he added, and if this is successful it will be deployed on other ships in the fleet.
Dr Martin Stopford, president of Clarkson Research Services, said shipping will remain at the heart of the global economy, and despite the current downturn it faces a ‘massive job’ to invest in new tonnage as world trade continues to grow. As much as US$1.3tn will have to be spent to replace the existing fleet of more than 87,000 ships by 2030, he forecast. Emerging new economies such as China, Africa and South America will result in significant changes to trade patterns, Dr Stopford said. At the same time, rising fuel costs have transformed the economics of shipping operations and the ‘information revolution’ will take scrutiny of the industry to ‘a whole new level’.
But Katharina Stanzel, MD of the tanker owners’ organisation Intertanko, warned that while society’s expectations have increased, its knowledge and understanding of the industry have diminished dramatically. And she warned of the need to ensure that new regulations are properly tested before being introduced — pointing to incidents in which hydrogen build-ups in ballast water treatment systems have caused explosions. Ms Stanzel said owners are also concerned at the frequency of regulatory change and the lack of clarity in many rules. The pace of new legislation is such that it is difficult to keep ships in service for their 25-year design life and the average age of Intertanko members’ vessels is now just eight years. ‘We need to know where the goalposts are as soon as we can to make it workable,’ she added.
Robberto Cazzulo, from the Italian classification society RINA, said the shipping industry must become more open if it is to improve its safety performance. He suggested that there is a need for an IMO legal instrument to ensure transparency and the exchange of safety-relevant data.
Speaking on behalf of the International Federation of Ship Masters’ Associations, Nautilus senior national secretary Allan Graveson told the meeting that the opportunity should be taken for risk assessment at the construction and design stage of bridge and engineroom layout, operation and management. ‘But do we actually think the regulatory system is capable of change to take a proactive rather than a reactive response?’ he asked. ‘Too often, we hear the words “too premature” when we are seeking change
The IMO conference heard repeated calls for the shipping industry to do more to tackle ‘human factors’ to improve safety at sea — although it was warned that one of the biggest problems affecting seafarers is being ignored.
Intertanko MD Katharina Stanzel said there is a lot of talk about the human element, but there is still a considerable lack of understanding about the way in which seafarers perform on the bridge and in the engineroom. Pointing to the ‘quite unbelievable’ training requirements that ECDIS has created for navigators, she argued that authorities need to take more account of the burden that new regulations place on crew members.
Vaughan Pomeroy, from the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science & Technology, cautioned against a ‘one size fits all’ approach to safety. Perceptions of risk vary significantly according to factors such as age and nationality, he pointed out. ‘If we don’t understand how people are thinking, then designing the technology becomes very complex,’ he added.
Mr Pomeroy said there is evidence to show that training is lagging behind technology and new equipment is being introduced or modified without a proper understanding of experience with the base technology. The case for ‘human-centred’ design is very strong, he added.
Roberto Cazzulo, from the classification society RINA, also called for attention to be paid to the way technology is used onboard. ‘Ships are becoming more and more automated,’ he pointed out, ‘and sometimes that can give an overconfidence about a vessel. You don’t have the same physical contact that you had in the past and there is a very complex interface between man, machine and software; and there is a need for training in the use of computers onboard.’
Chris Baily, from BP Shipping, said the industry must enhance crew safety and working conditions. ‘New technology can bring benefits, but we have to understand the impact on crews,’ he added.
Andreas Nordseth, directorgeneral of the Danish Maritime Authority, said shipping has never been more regulated, inspected and certificated as it is today. While the accident rate has improved, he warned that there are many examples of problems with safety management systems and as a result Denmark is putting the focus on ‘a culture of safety rather than just compliance’.
But Christer Lindvall, of the International Federation of Ship Masters’ Associations, said he was frustrated at hearing so much talk about human factors when fatigue remains one of the most common causes of accidents and the rules allowed seafarers to work up to 98 hours a week. He said the IMO should look at ways of reducing the administrative burden on seafarers and tackle the poor ergonomic design of equipment onboard many ships.
Professor Neil Greenberg, clinical director of the March on Stress organisation, called for the industry to do more to protect seafarers from the effects of stress. ‘If mental health is affected for whatever reason, it may impair performance,’ he pointed out. Guidelines recently developed for private security guards working on merchant ships may provide the basis for policies to provide psychological support for seafarers, he suggested.
Birgit Liodden, secretary-general of YoungShip International, urged the industry to do much more to recruit and retain high calibre young people to replace its ageing workforce. Shipping is about 50 years behind other industries and should promote itself with clear and modern branding, positive role models and increased transparency to attract new talent she argued.