Numerous risks – both old and emerging – are threatening the shipping sector, according to an industry report by global insurer Allianz.
According to the Safety & Shipping Review 2018 by Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS), multiple new risk exposures are threatening ships. The emergence of ultra-large container ships, which exceed the length of four football fields, raise fire containment and salvage issues, while climate change brings new route risks, especially in the Arctic and North Atlantic regions.
The maritime sector is also affected by cyber issues as vessels and ports become increasingly automated. One such example is the NotPetya malware which wreaked havoc on harbour logistics, causing cargo delays and congestion at nearly 80 ports.
Environmental scrutiny also pushes the shipping industry to cut emissions, which brings new technical risks.
Despite huge strides being made in maritime safety, human error still remains one of the largest risks to shipping. Recent fatal accidents linked to human error include the sinking of oil tanker Sanchi in January 2018, which led to 32 deaths. The two collisions involving the USS Fitzgerald and the USS John S. McCain navy ships in Asia were also pinned on human error. Recently, a cargo ship collided with a chemical tanker in waters near Shanghai, with 10 of its 13 crew members missing.
According to Allianz, 75-96% of shipping accidents involve human error. It is also behind 75% of 15,000 marine liability insurance industry claims analysed by AGCS – costing $1.6 billion.
“Human error continues to be a major driver of incidents,” says Captain Rahul Khanna, global head of marine risk consulting, AGCS. “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.”
According to Khanna, the huge amount of data produced by the insurance industry is being underutilised. Better use of data and analytics is needed to produce real-time findings and alerts that could help in reducing incidents.
“By analysing data 24/7 we can gain new insights from crew behaviour and near-misses that can identify trends,” he said. “The shipping industry has learned from losses in the past but predictive analysis could be the difference between a safe voyage and a disaster.”
While human error is still the largest factor in maritime incidents, the technology behind autonomous ships is still not at a point that it can replace humans.
According to the report, legal, safety, and cybersecurity issues are likely to limit widespread growth of crewless ships for now. However, research into the technology is already underway, with the Maritime Port Authority of Singapore planning to introduce autonomous harbour ships in the future for a number of operations such as berthing, mooring, and towing.