Dr Grahaeme Henderson* made clear the oil majors’ position when it comes to safety in tanker shipping: owners and operators must do better
The world is impacted by shipping in so many ways, but the general population is barely aware of its existence. The global population is growing by 200,000 people every day, and this is driving the demand for goods, that are transported by sea. In response, cargo movements by sea have more than doubled since 1990 and the global shipping fleet numbers over 50,000 vessels.
This presents challenges. Some would say there have always been challenges, but these are increasing at a faster pace than before. The acceleration of news dissemination has resulted in news travelling faster than ever before – creating huge expectations within society.
These challenges are opportunities specific to shipping and may be the driving force to a better, more efficient industry. The question is: How can shipping thrive, how can its people thrive and how can shipping help the global society to thrive?
There are three key areas in which shipping must improve: Safety, the environment, and the embracing new technology.
The hard working men and women at sea are the ones driving the economy forwards, yet shipping has one of the poorest safety records of any industry in the world. Unlike other industries, shipping does not collectively report data, but when the available data is analysed, it shows that shipping has a safety performance 20 times worse than for the average onshore worker and five times worse than construction.
In the last ten years, an average of 113 ships have been lost each year and many thousands of people have been killed. The reputations of shipping, the managers and the individual shipowners are damaged.
The upper management and owners will be familiar with the situation when visiting an owned vessel. They receive the full VIP treatment, but it is the seafarers that should be treated like VIPs. Everything should be done to ensure the seafarers’ safety. That starts at the top. The decisions made at the top, the tone set by management, and the actions taken all impact the safety performance and people’s loves. It is only by addressing shipping’s appalling safety record that shipping can become a thriving industry.
It can be done. Shell introduced “Partners in Safety” in 2012 working together with the leaders of 500 top maritime companies around the world. The results have been impressive, with a four-fold reduction in serious and potential incidents in just six years. In addition, this work is having a very genuine impact on business performance.
When people feel they are being cared for, they respond in kind. They are more dedicated and more focussed. How should leaders behave? Visit ships and let the seafarer know its safety that is the main object of the visit, and everyone’s top priority. Back this up with new technology such as interactive videos. Finally, institute care for seafarers physical and mental welfare.
Another example of systems that work on ships is “Hi-Low”, short for high frequency and low impact. This project used mathematical modelling to analyse incident data to find the patterns that lead to catastrophic incidents on tankers. The Shell “Hi-Low” project has been rolled out across 40 ships since last year and has led to the avoidance of potentially catastrophic engine-room fires, a reduction in potential lifeboat incidents and a lessening of bunker fuel spills.
Another equally important factor to be aware of is the environment. Shipping needs the oceans, but so do hundreds of millions of people for food and livelihood. But this is being put in jeopardy by the negative impact of shipping. How does shipping carry more and emit less?
*Dr Grahaeme Henderson was speaking at the 10th Annual Capital Link Greek Shipping Forum in Athens, Greece.