Safety record improves but CBM questioned

The annual shipping and safety review from insurance specialist Allianz Global always provides interesting reading being a regular check on the industry’s safety record.

This year’s report highlights that casualties continue to reduce with all shipping losses in 2016 amounting to 85 vessels – half of the 171 reported in 2007 and 16% down on 2016. As in most recent years, the majority of losses (23 vessels) occurred in Asian waters. This is the only area where the trend in ship losses is flat as all other areas show a declining loss rate.

Of the 85 ships 30 were general cargo vessels with other cargo ship types accounting for 22 ships. The remainder were fishing, passenger and miscellaneous vessels. One of the ships lost last year can hardly be considered a blot on the record as the 17,042gt Ocean Dreamwas a cruise ship that had been anchored and abandoned by its Chinese owner for over a year before it capsized off the coast of Thailand.

The report contains more than just bare statistics as there is comment on many industry concerns. For example it highlights the impact of low earnings on safety with Chris Turberville, Head of Marine Hull & Liabilities, UK, AGCS saying “When debt levels are high and earnings are low, many ship-owners will look to make cost savings, with implications for maintenance budgets, training and crew.”

In what some might consider a surprise, the report also questions the impact of condition based maintenance saying ‘Shipowners have shown a growing interest in CBM but this may be storing up problems for the future’. According to Turberville, CBM runs the risk of a potential fault going undetected until it results in a major breakdown, while stretched maintenance intervals also increases risk. Employing CBM can also place undue pressure on already stretched crews and can be akin “to allowing the crew to put band aids on the ship.”

CBM has actively been encouraged by class societies and OEMs alike especially in situations where remote monitoring of equipment is employed. Since CBM is mostly practiced on newer ships its true impact both as a cost saving measure and on safety may be difficult to assess but the concept has a long track record in other industries and is not considered a safety concern in most of those.