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Sun 9 Mar 2008 04:00 AM

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When the ship goes down

Latest figures collated by Norwegian classification society Det Norske Veritas prove the industry is far from ship shape as navigational accidents continue to rise at an alarming rate.

Latest figures collated by Norwegian classification society Det Norske Veritas prove the industry is far from ship shape as navigational accidents continue to rise at an alarming rate.

With the number of incidents doubling over the last five years and insurance premiums rising by as much as 30% last year alone, never has the saying ‘worse things happen at sea' rung so true.

An issue as deep as the Pacific Ocean, a number of leading industry experts have identified a distinct shortage of qualified officers as one of the primary factors behind the increase.

A justified view, the booming market has undoubtedly attempted to sail on despite a limited supply of seafarers.

Some even go as far as to claim that increasing frequencies until a vessel runs into serious operational damages is now common practice.

Accident rates at sea have now reached such titanic proportions that Scandinavian insurance companies such as the Norwegian Hull Club, Skuld and the Swedish Club have become actively trying to raise awareness of the issue.

The most serious of shipping accidents stem from collisions, groundings and contacts - with the cost of such an event estimated to have doubled in recent years.

Of these, collisions unsurprisingly tend to attract the greatest attention from the media.

Collisions range from the structural impact between two ships or one ship and a floating or still object, most notoriously such as an iceberg.

The financial impact of a collision for a ship owner strikes like a tidal wave. Varying from ship loss to heavy fines and penalties, there is also the spiraling damage costs it could potentially inflict on any other infrastructure it hits.

Most poignantly though, the environmental impact of even the most minor spill can be devastating and will no doubt instantly receive worldwide scrutiny.

Few would debate that human negligence has not played some role in any form of collision.

Yet increasing pressures from a thriving sector with a limited staff pool, means that instead of criticising those already involved, greater support should be offered through recruitment and stringent training polices.

So while accidents do happen and have done so throughout the industry's rich history, the latest findings highlight a recent peak in both accident numbers and costs that must be addressed immediately.

Change now lies on the horizon and it is time to bring it safely into shore.

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