Clay Maitland

On a quest for quality in shipping

Steady state of blame

By Michael Grey

Posted on | January 23, 2015 | No Comments

If nothing else, the flurry of maritime accidents around the New Year served to remind people in the industry, as much as the general public, that there is a lot needs doing to make shipping rather safer. Tor Svensen of DNV-GL was speaking about these problems just recently, reminding us that 2000 people die at sea every year and serious accidents are on a level basis, or even slightly increasing, with about 100 total losses every year.

Nobody ever stops talking about the need to improve marine safety, from the Secretary-General of the IMO downwards, but there is a distinct lack of real improvement. As Tor Svensen observed, there is always plenty of focus on safety, with public demands for improvement , regulatory pressures and new technologies available to help, but there seems to be something lacking. Navigators have more electronic assistance than ever, but navigational errors, for instance(usually attributable to matters of competence) increase.

If we are to reduce accidents by 90%, says Tor Svensen, we need a “change of mindset” and of course he is right. We need to learn more from accidents, a process not helped by only a minority of flag states carrying out adequate investigations and sharing their conclusions widely. It is not helped either by the heavy hand of the law intervening and effectively preventing a person who might have made a mistake ever admitting it, making it that much harder to ever establish the truth.

We could also learn a lot, he suggests, from the culture of other industries and he cited the offshore sector as one which has a very different mindset to that obtaining in shipping.  He also suggests that we need safety barriers that make it harder for accidents to happen, better motivated and educated people and systems that are designed for human performance.

But will any of this happen? Against it we have to set the existing culture of cheapness and cost cutting, a consequence of a shipping industry that is poorly rewarded, itself caused by the insane oversupply that seems almost endemic. But at the same time you could argue that the tanker sector, once as bad as any other part of the shipping industry, is today far advanced in its practices, its safety regime, its attitudes and its motivation. We might learn from this hopeful trend that all is not lost and the improvements that Tor Svensen surely hopes for could conceivably come about in other parts of the industry, which have yet to see the light.

Maritime TV’s ‘Mondays with Maitland’ – Working with Congress to Insure Seafarers’ Port Access Rights are Respected at U.S. port terminals

By Clay

Posted on | January 21, 2015 | No Comments

In this 37th interview in the series, Clay discusses the need to make sure seafarers’ port access rights are respected while they’re on ships calling on U.S. port terminals, especially as it relates to Section 811 of the Coast Guard Authorization Act legislation. He also discusses his involvement with the North American Maritime Ministry Association (NAMMA) which is working to support this legislation… Continue reading

Safe ports in wild weather

By Michael Grey

Posted on | January 13, 2015 | No Comments

The title of “biggest containership in the world” is changing rapidly at present, with a queue of giant vessels leaving far eastern shipyards and loading their maiden cargoes. Members of the public have been able, care of the media, to marvel at the CSCL Globe , which has been on her maiden north European rotation and has been making headlines wherever she arrives. It is good to have these positive pictures of shipping, after too many of the opposite recently, what with death and disaster elsewhere in the world. There is, however a lot of challenges represented in handling these “mega” ships, as has been evident recently with a string of severe storms tracking across the North Atlantic to test European sea defences. Not for the first time, very large containerships… Continue reading

Maritime TV’s ‘Mondays with Maitland’ – Clay’s perspective on the lessons learned from the MOL Comfort sinking and subsequent lawsuit.

By Clay

Posted on | January 12, 2015 | No Comments

In this 36th interview in the series, Clay discusses the issues surrounding the June 2013 MOL Comfort sinking after it was announced last month that claims against Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) for the loss of the ship are now amounting to over $500m, with more than 100 claimants joining the Tokyo court legal action headed by Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL). Clay points to certain classification societies and shipyards in assessing responsibility for disasters like these, but stresses the complexity involved in addressing the problem… Continue reading

An upright stance

By Michael Grey

Posted on | January 5, 2015 | No Comments

Whatever occurred as the big vehicle carrier Hoegh Osaka moved off the berth in Southampton and proceeded down Southampton Water, the action of the bridge team in grounding her on the Bramble Bank would appear to have saved the day. This considered piece of rapid decision making probably saved a lot of lives which could have been lost if the ship had capsized, while it certainly saved the bacon of Southampton Port, which would almost certainly have been closed if this monster had rolled over in the channel. Whatever brickbats or praise might be thrown around in the aftermath of this spectacular casualty, the efforts made on that bridge to mitigate the consequences require due recognition. It is a reminder that the unexpected is never that far away in marine operations… Continue reading

When fresh air is fatal

By Michael Grey

Posted on | December 31, 2014 | No Comments

Who remembers their fire course, where practically the first lesson would stress the principles of the “fire triangle”, that deadly combination of three which will give rise to combustion, but one of which (or its removal) will extinguish a conflagration? There have been a number of fires aboard large ro-pax or ro-ro freight ferries, the Norman Atlantic conflagration in the Adriatic being merely the most recent. In each case the fire has started on a vehicle deck, spaces which in each case have been open to the elements, through large ventilation ports around the deck, above which is positioned the superstructure and accommodation. The advantages of this configuration are several. Firstly, by not enclosing this space, there will be no need to ventilate it to remove exhaust or petrol fumes from the… Continue reading

In praise of mistrust

By Michael Grey

Posted on | December 28, 2014 | No Comments

If you don’t know where you are, or have doubts about the veracity of your instruments, you are extra-cautious. If you are not entirely sure about the possibility of a breakdown, or that the mechanicals could just possibly be somewhat unreliable, you don’t take chances, and leave larger margins for error. It sounds like common sense, a cultivated sense of prudence that works equally well with any mode of transport, from a bicycle to a Boeing. Over-confidence, as people who calculate insurance premiums for a living know full well, increases risk, whether we are dealing with a just-qualified teenage driver, or a watch-keeper on a 20 knot containership. The UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch Chief Inspector describes “complacency” as one of the curses of modern ship operation and of course he is… Continue reading

The computer says “damn”!

By Michael Grey

Posted on | December 11, 2014 | No Comments

We are being led to believe that life will be a lot easier and more generally relaxing when we have handed over everything to artificial intelligence, which is progressing in leaps and bounds. Drones will soon be taking over from the postman and human courier, although it was marginally comforting to hear of a woman being slightly injured by a drone that was delivering some bauble to her from an admirer. Doubtless she will be suing. An Airbus approaching London Heathrow was also menaced recently and there have been warnings about dangerous droning, anticipating that these flying projectiles are the “must-have” gift this Christmas. The physicist Stephen Hawking has also warned about AI taking over the world and subjugating human beings, once it works out the password to take over Google… Continue reading

A Bump in the Night

By Michael Grey

Posted on | December 8, 2014 | No Comments

Sometimes, it seems, the technology is getting the better of us all. There has been a nasty scare off Mauritius where the Volvo Ocean Challenge yachts were roaring past under a huge press of canvas. One, alas, didn’t make it, graunching to a stop on an offshore coral reef, which for some reason was not apparent on the ECDIS with which these high priced boats are equipped and invisible at night. It could be, of course, that it was edited out in an effort to clarify the tiny screen, something which has happened on occasion to navigators on bigger ships. Nobody was hurt, fortunately, but if they get the yacht off it will be a minor miracle.

It was interesting that the yachtsmen, after they were rescued, appeared to… Continue reading

Speaking Gently

By Michael Grey

Posted on | December 3, 2014 | No Comments

Who has heard about the “nudge” theory which suggests that you are more likely to change your habits if you are given a gentle nudge, rather than having somebody yelling at you, or thoroughly antagonising you with laws and regulations. It was a thought that arose during the Cadwallader Debate in London last week, when Clay was pitted against the European Commission’s Christine Berg to discuss regulatory challenges and whether “the parochial policies of regional regulators will wreck international shipping”. One tends to go to these debates with pre-determined views, but not for the first time, one wondered whether people would be rather more friendly towards the EU if it didn’t spend its time bashing you over the head with its policies and threatening you, if you didn’t go along with… Continue reading
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