3 Dangerous Types of Ship Disasters & How to Prevent Them

by | Tuesday, June 17, 2014 |

Major ship disasters cause far too many injuries and fatalities each year, not to mention creating financial hardship for the vessel owner or company. Many accidents can be prevented by taking simple, precautionary steps. Below, we discuss three dangerous types of accidents and ways to prevent them.

Ship Disaster #1: Sinking

The sinking of a ship is downright devastating. For vessel owners, the cost of repairing the ship (plus the effect of negative press) has the potential to bankrupt a company. The Boat Owners Association of The United States reports that the cost of repairing a vessel after it’s been underwater amounts to roughly 40 percent of its value.

But more important than the business aspect is the potential loss of lives that can occur when a ship sinks. The world witnessed a recent catastrophe at sea with the sinking of the South Korean ferry. Negligence was the cause of that accident, mostly related to unaddressed stability issues, improperly loaded cargo and failing to adhere to operational protocols.

Some tips to prevent a vessel sinking include:

  • perform routine and thorough inspections; and
  • if there is a structural integrity problem, take the immediate proper steps to remedy it.

Procrastination can be deadly. Keeping a vessel in good repair and adhering to navigational and safety rules will avert many disasters at sea.

Ship Disaster #2: Fires

Primary causes of vessel fires are related to electrical and equipment failure. Most vessel fires begin in the engine room. A fire easily and quickly can destroy a vessel's control system, which can disable a boat in seconds.

It was malfunctioning equipment – specifically a leaky fuel line – that disabled the Carnival Triumph last year and left thousands of people stranded in the Gulf of Mexico without power or working toilets for five days.

To prevent vessel fires, it’s also important to:

  • perform regular and thorough maintenance checks;
  • have top-notch fire suppression equipment on board (engine room fires that can't be suppressed may result in losing the entire vessel and increasing the risk of fatality for crew and passengers);
  • abide by the rules laid out in Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and in Convention on Standards for Training, Certification, and Watch Keeping (STCW); and
  • ensure the captain and crew have good firefighting training.

Ship Disaster #3: Collisions

Human error often causes vessel collisions – whether with another vessel or with an object. Poor lookout, sidestepping navigational rules, subpar navigation instruments and amateur maneuvering all increase the risk of vessel collisions.

The best way to avoid a maritime collision is to:

  • keep up-to-date navigational charts;
  • keep a close watch at all times for traffic and on the radar;
  • practice your maneuvering skills, or, if you operate commercially, only hire reliable, properly trained captains to man your ships; and
  • abide by the Nautical Rules of the Road (contained within the USCG’s Navigation Rules, International-Inland, and in accordance with the International Maritime Organization’s International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea).

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