Given the global shipping industry is responsible for transporting as much as 90% of world trade, the safety of its vessels is critical. The sector saw the number of reported total shipping losses of over 100GT decline again during 2019 to 41 – the lowest total this century and a close to 70% fall over 10 years. Improved ship design and technology, stepped-up regulation and risk management advances such as more robust safety management systems and procedures on vessels are some of the factors behind the long-term improvement in losses.
Shipping losses declined by almost a quarter year-onyear from 53 in 2018, although late reported losses may increase the 2019 total further in future. Bad weather was reported as a factor in one in five losses. The 2019 loss year represents a significant improvement on the rolling 10-year average of 95 – down by over 50%.
The South China, Indochina, Indonesia and Philippines maritime region remains the main loss hotspot, accounting for almost 30% of losses over the past year with 12 vessels. These waters are also the major loss location of the past 10 years, driven by factors including high levels of local and international trade, congested ports and busy shipping lanes, older fleets, exposure to typhoons and ongoing safety problems on some domestic ferry routes. However, the number of losses in this region has declined for the second successive year. The Gulf of Mexico (4) and the West African Coast (3) – neither of which featured in the top 10 loss regions last year – rank as the second and third most frequent loss locations.
Cargo vessels (15) accounted for more than a third of all total losses during 2019 with the majority occurring in South East Asian waters. The number of losses involving ro-ro vessels (3) increased year-on-year. Foundering is the most frequent cause of loss of all vessels, accounting for three in four during 2019. Contributing factors included bad weather, flooding and water ingress, engine trouble and vessels capsizing. Fire/explosion continues to be a significant problem on board vessels, resulting in five total losses during 2019.
While total losses declined significantly over the past year, the number of reported shipping casualties or incidents actually increased by 5% to 2,815. There were over 1,000 cases of machinery damage/failure (1,044) – already the top cause of shipping incidents over the past decade – accounting for more than one third of all incidents reported in 2019. Incidents on passenger vessels and ro-ros increased. The British Isles, North Sea, English Channel and Bay of Biscay maritime region replaced the East Mediterranean to become the main incident hotspot for the first time since 2011, accounting for one in five incidents (605).