Action needed on recruitment and training, university research finds

An analysis of shipping accidents between 2002 and 2016 has highlighted recruitment and training issues as a key factor that the industry should address.

Researchers from the Seafarers International Research Centre of Cardiff University analyzed 693 accident investigation reports published online by the UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB), the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the Federal Bureau of Maritime Casualty Investigation in Germany and the Danish Maritime Accident Investigation Board (DMAIB).

The most common type of accident was “collision, close quarters and contact” (35.8%), followed by grounding (17%), fire and explosion (9.8%) and lifeboats (3.3%).

The analysis highlighted failures of risk management systems, for example inadequate passage planning, and failures in communication as issues relevant to recruitment and training.

“It is often not possible to discern the underlying causes of communication failure”, the reports states, adding that “in some incidents information is simply not passed on and in others there may be language or hierarchical barriers at play. This is an area where better training and recruitment practices would be expected to have a positive impact providing the industry with a constructive way forward with regard to accident mitigation.”

Where poor judgment was identified as a factor, the report said that better training or more careful selection procedures could serve to reduce accidents in the future. Better training could also help prevent accidents involving ineffective use of technology, rule violation, ineffective maintenance and poor emergency response.

Third-party deficiencies were also a common cause of accidents.

“It is arguably the case that the focus by regulators and enforcement agents on third party deficiencies has been inadequate, to date, and that this needs urgent rectification,” the study said.

Lifeboat accidents

The most common immediate cause of lifeboat accidents was “inappropriate/ineffective maintenance” (26.1%), inadequate training and experience (21.7%), poor design (17.4%) and poor judgment (13%).

Fire and explosion accidents

Inadequate risk management was the main immediate cause of fire and explosion incidents (27.3%), followed by third-party deficiency (18.2%), technical failure (18.2%) and inappropriate/ineffective maintenance (16.7%).