Risks comes in many guises, from piracy, fire and collision, to cyber threats and human mistakes. Managing and mitigating these issues must become an industry priority
Almost 20 years to the day since the International Safety Code (ISM) was introduced by IMO, officials at the port of Hull became concerned with the approach being taken by the 2008 Russian-built 2,800 dwt clean tanker Tecoil Polaris. UK Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) inspectors boarded and found a catalogue of deficiencies in navigation and safety equipment, together with significant non-compliance with the ISM Code.
These included not having correct navigation charts or a voyage plan, incorrect stability calculations, navigation equipment not working and defects with lifesaving equipment. The vessel was subsequently detained and its safety certificate cancelled.
The MCA’s lead investigator Mark Flavell said at the time: “This was an extremely serious breach of the ISM Code. In this case, the captain showed complete disregard for the safety of his vessel and crew operating the vessel. The intention was for this vessel to carry 1,665 tonnes of oil to Finland, which could have had disastrous human and environmental consequences.”
Had a few basic precautions been taken, such as vetting the operator and the tanker through physical inspection services, the whole affair might have been avoided.
As a first step, a third-party due diligence report could have been commissioned, to clearly identify the parties involved and to sift out inaccurate data.
Infospectrum is a provider of such reports and its founder and director William Hogg said: “In a global economy that is being transformed by data, it is not the players with the most intel that will prosper most, but those who best know what to do with it.”
To get the most out of the data, the company has created its Infospectrum Counterparty and Credit Management System (ICMS), allowing clients to speed up counterparty vetting, onboarding, monitoring and risk management for practices such as chartering tankers or dealing with multiple cargo owners when selling space on parcel tankers.
“Organised maritime criminals are extremely well organised, led and resourced, as well as constantly innovating. They would love the maritime community to stay disorganised”
The next pre-fixture step involves vetting the tanker itself. International third-party bulker, gas carrier and tanker inspection company RightShip operates a predictive online vetting platform called RightShip Qi (Quality index). This uses predictive analytics and real-time risk assessments to target substandard maritime performance.
Sophisticated algorithms analyse data to spot patterns, draw conclusions and determine the likelihood of a vessel having an incident in the next 12 months.
Once the vessel and its owners/operators have been vetted, the next priority is to ensure the crew and vessel remain safe during the voyage. There are obvious concerns, such as tanker routes being subject to harassment from state operators and ad hoc pirate incidents, but less high-profile issues must also be addressed, such as theft of equipment from vessels in port.
Piracy – a growing risk
Piracy is on the rise according to the latest data from the International Maritime Bureau (IMB). IMB is a specialised division of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC); it is a non-profit making organisation established in 1981 to act as a focal point in the fight against all types of maritime crime and malpractice.
A total of 107 incidents were reported to the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) in the first six months of 2018. In total, 69 vessels were boarded, with 23 attempted attacks, 11 vessels fired upon and four vessels hijacked. No vessels were reported as hijacked in the second quarter of the year.
The number of crewmembers taken hostage increased from 63 to 102 compared to the same period in 2017. The number of crew kidnappings decreased from 41 at the second quarter of 2017 to 25 to date in 2018. However, all 25 crew kidnappings reported this year have occurred over six incidents in the Gulf of Guinea, highlighting the higher risks in this area.
Outside the Gulf of Guinea, incidents have decreased in other piracy hotspots. There were no reported incidents recorded off the coast of Somalia in the second quarter of 2018. Still, Masters are urged to continue to maintain high levels of vigilance when transiting the high-risk area and to follow the latest best management practices.
Discussing these incidents, IMB director Pottengal Mukundan said: “The 2018 figures aptly demonstrate the value of timely and transparent reporting. The reports help to focus on risk areas and to accurately inform vessels of evolving dangers, allowing authorities to deliver an effective response.”
The ability of company security officers (CSOs) to share intelligence goes a long way in keeping crews and tankers safe at sea. This ability has been boosted of late thanks to the CSO Alliance, which works in partnership with the IMB and military services. It is a useful programme as many CSOs are drawn from the ranks of the special services in military units and prefer to maintain a low profile. The CSO Alliance allows them to share their intelligence without compromising their visibility.
CSO Alliance director Mark Sutcliffe said: “Organised maritime criminals are exactly that: extremely well organised, led and resourced, as well as constantly innovating. They would love the maritime community to stay disorganised.”
The aim of the CSO Alliance is to collect data from CSOs worldwide, whether that be a suspected sighting, a stowaway attempt or an opportunistic cargo crime, and to track and log every criminal activity anywhere in the world. This information can then be shared and lessons learnt.
A former CSO for Jo Tankers, who wished to remain anonymous, explained: “I am one of the founding members of the CSO Alliance, and the reason I signed up was that I was looking for more information, ideas and ways of working, related to security in general and piracy in particular. I was looking for a discussion group from various countries as to how they were handling all the security issues.”
The CSO Alliance works in partnership with the IMB and military services
But even when the vessel has been checked, the operators approved and the pirates avoided, there remain a host of onboard risks that must be mitigated. For example, in a recent paper calling for improved firefighting systems on board container vessels, the International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) noted “further steps are required to improve fire safety”.
According to statistics from the VTT Technical research centre in Finland, 33 vessels a year are expected to be lost as result of onboard fires. One such incident occurred in March 2018, when five people lost their lives in the Maersk Honam fire. Quite aside from the human tragedy, the financial damage from the fire will be the biggest on record, running into the hundreds of millions of dollars.
IUMI’s concern is based on the growing size of vessels and the inadequacy of fire prevention measures. As vessels become larger and more sophisticated, so the financial interest tied up in the ship increases. From a marine insurer's perspective, it is a simple equation: the larger the vessel, the more cargo it will carry and hence the greater the sum that must be insured.
Safety equipment manufacturer Coltraco reports that a ship’s gaseous extinguishing system typically comprises between 200 and 600 cylinders, containing 45 kg of CO2 under high 720 psi/ 49 bar pressure. And while IMO SOLAS & FSS Code Chapter 220.127.116.11 states: “Means shall be provided for the crew to safely check the quantity of the fire extinguishing medium in the containers,” some industry insiders estimate that 20% of a ship’s CO2 cylinders have discharged or partially leaked at some point in their lifetime. Furthermore, it is not unheard of for marine ‘servicing companies’ to unintentionally leave extinguishers disabled.
Most marine servicing companies only have four hours on a vessel in a port to test up to 600 cylinders. It takes about 15 minutes for a two-person team to shut down, dismantle and weigh a single CO2 cylinder, which equates to 16 cylinders in the four-hour window. Still, every CO2 cylinder on a vessel will receive a “tested and certified sticker”.
The human element
A lack of definition regarding the assessment of risk is cited as a concern by Prevention at Sea’s business development manager George Ellinas. He noted: “Since the IMO does not specify a particular management approach to assessing risk, shipowners and ship management companies are left to choose methods that are in line with their organisational structure, their ships and modus operandi. Without listing them, current risk management methodologies tend to increase the probability of some risks remaining unrecognised and uncontrolled.”
“Some insiders estimate that 20% of a ship’s [firefighting] CO2 cylinders have discharged or partially leaked at some point in their lifetime”
Prevention at Sea believes that beyond those hazards which may jeopardise safety and put the environment at risk, there are a plethora of other risks that could have serious consequences for operators. These include the operational risks of getting off hires; delays at port; non-conformances; heavy fines; and improper navigation techniques.
George Ellinas (Prevention at Sea): “Don’t cure, prevent”
Prevention at Sea has identified the ‘human element’ as the root cause of such risks, which it says are directly or indirectly linked to: the lack of a safety culture; poor behaviour and risk perception; insufficiently designed procedures; bad practices and seamanship; ineffective regulation monitoring; misunderstanding or wrong interpretation of instructions; lack of communication and teamwork; and a lack of training and ‘transfer’ of shipping knowledge.
All human-element risks call for a different type of risk profile calculation and risk assessment methodology; one that takes into account the complexity of the ship’s operations, the role of the human contingent, and the surrounding conditions. These factors can compound the risks of safety, security, cyber security, pollution and health.
An effective risk assessment methodology needs to be comprehensive, allowing for the identification of risks before they escalate. Prevention at Sea recommends a methodology that involves key risk indicators based on experience, industry standards, technical knowledge, best practices and an analysis of past data.
Its Human ELement Maritime Enhancement Tool (H.EL.M.E.T.) measures risk perception and disposition to incidents and potential losses by identifying risks and automatically raising red flags at an early stage.
Such as inspection can be run alongside the other measures detailed above to provide an all-round assessment of a vessel and operator’s risk profile.
The inspection should divide a vessel into zones, covering for example, areas such as safety management, navigation practices, procedures to ensure structural safety, engine operations, mooring, cargo operations, always factoring in the human element.
Mr Ellinas said: “It is very worrying that despite current inspections and surveys carried out onboard or ashore, ‘operational incidents’ are on the rise. This fact is an indication that the human element and the associated potential maritime risks are being placed under the radar. Current inspections and surveys focus on the conditions at the time of the inspection and the results of the past year. There is no evaluation of the current risk profile [as] outdated and generic 3x3 or 4X4 risk matrices [are used] to identify the severity of tasks performed in isolation of other tasks happening at the same time. This is far from an effective marine risk assessment methodology. An effective marine risk assessment methodology needs to be comprehensive and predictive. Don’t cure, prevent.”