European Marine Safety Agency says maritime safety has improved

There was a moderate reduction in the number of marine accidents in 2022, according to the just-published Annual Overview of Marine Casualties and Incidents from the European Marine Safety Agency (EMSA).

The report stated that there were 2,510 marine casualties and incidents reported last year, down from 2,692 in 2021 and 2,594 in 2020.

EMSA’s “overview” has a somewhat limited remit, focusing on marine casualties and incidents involving ships flying the flag of EU Member States, occurring within their territorial sea or internal waters, or with substantial interests of EU Member States.

It gathers the data from the EU database for maritime incidents – European Marine Casualty Information Platform – (EMCIP).

There had been a decrease in overall traffic numbers in 2020 due to the pandemic. Traffic picked up again in 2021 as cruise ships and ferries resumed operations, hence the rise in the number of reported incidents in 2021 compared with 2020. However, the number of reported casualties and incidents in 2022 was 5.1% below the annual average and the average before the pandemic.

The number of ships involved in marine casualties and incidents in 2022 decreased when compared to the five-year average, particularly in cargo ships and fishing vessels. The number of very serious marine casualties also continued to decline.

In 2022 six ships were lost, 524 ships were damaged, 180 ships became “unfit to proceed”, 603 required shore assistance, 330 required towing, 17 were abandoned, and there were 296 Search and Rescue (SAR) operations. There was also a continuation in the level of reported pollution.

The majority of reported marine casualties and incidents (unsurprisingly, given the remit of the overview) occurred in inland EU waters, followed by territorial sea and then open sea. The highest number of occurrences took place in EU waters in the North Atlantic and the Mediterranean.

However, this is more likely to be a reflection of the level of traffic (and higher sample size) than any reflection of increased likelihood of an incident in those particular areas.

The report said that there had been a decrease in the number of launched investigations in 2022 compared to  previous years. The number of lives lost in marine casualties also decreased, reaching the lowest value in the period under consideration.

From 2014 to 2022, there were 6,781 injuries in 5,941 marine casualties and incidents, averaging 753 injuries per year. In 2022, there were 597 injuries, which was the lowest number in the entire period. Crew members accounted for 83.8%, roughly in line with the 84.4% average from 2014 to 2022.