Marine casualties highest in South China Seas and adjacent waters

THE South China Seas and adjacent waters have become the most marine casualty prone in global shipping according to a new Allianz study, reports Colchester's Seatrade Maritime News.

According to the marine underwriters study, Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty SE's (AGCS) Safety & Shipping Review 2018, these waters account for almost a third of the 94 losses worldwide in 2017.

Overall losses last year fell 37 per cent over the past 10 years, but typhoons, traffic and safety on domestic routes were major factors in contributing to the higher losses in Asia, according to the study.

Bad weather was involved in one in four losses amounting to more than 20 vessels, the review found, although human error was still a major driver of incidents, with the Sanchi oil tanker collision cited as a particularly bad case.

"Human error continues to be a major driver of incidents," said the study. "Inadequate shore-side support and commercial pressures have an important role to play in maritime safety and risk exposure. Tight schedules can have a detrimental impact on safety culture and decision-making."

"The decline in frequency and severity of total losses over the past year continues the positive trend of the past decade. Insurance claims have been relatively benign, reflecting improved ship design and the positive effects of risk management policy and safety regulation over time,"

Said Hull & Marine Liabilities leader Baptiste Ossena: "As the use of new technologies on board vessels grows, we expect to see changes in the maritime loss environment in future. The number of more technical claims will grow - such as cyber incidents or technological defects - in addition to traditional losses, such as collisions or groundings."

Losses occurring in the South China, Indochina, Indonesia and Philippines maritime region, were up 25 per cent annually, driven by activity in Vietnamese waters, the study said.

The next major loss hotspot was the Eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea region with 17 losses, followed by the British Isles with eight. More worryingly, there was also a 29 per cent annual increase in reported shipping incidents in Arctic Circle waters (71), according to the analysis.

Cargo vessels (53) accounted for over half of all vessels lost globally in 2017, and among these, bulk carriers accounted for five of the 10 largest reported total losses by gross tonnage. The most common cause of global losses remains foundering (sinking), with 61 sinkings in 2017. Wrecked/stranded ranks second (13), followed by machinery damage/failure (8).

Looking ahead, the study noted that there are multiple new risk exposures for the shipping sector. Among these, increasing containership size poses fire containment and salvage issues and climate change is bringing new route risks, with fast-changing conditions in Arctic and North Atlantic waters posing new hazards.

Meanwhile with the new emissions regime imminent, new technical risks and the threat of machinery damage incidents. And finally, in terms of the rising use of automation and the trends towards digitalisation, the industry continues to grapple with balancing the benefits and risks of increasing automation on board.