Posted on | April 21, 2014 | No Comments
When a ship starts to sink, the important thing is for the passengers to get out alive and safely. For this reason, the International Maritime Organization has spent a great deal of time discussing measures to improve the survivability of passenger ships, particularly ferries. The issue has been before the IMO since before it existed (see the TITANIC), and certainly since the losses of the HERALD OF FREE ENTERPRISE and ESTONIA in the 1980s.
The latest sinking—that of the Korean ferry SEWOL—has given rise to a large number of theories, most of which make no helpful contribution to the critical question: How do we get the passengers out alive and safely?
The key is to prevent or delay the entry of water, from whatever cause, when an accident occurs. In addition, each passenger must have a reasonable chance of getting off the ship, at least in reasonably calm sea conditions. This, admittedly, is asking quite a lot. It does not help that the International Convention on Safety of Life at Sea, 1974, as amended, better known as SOLAS, does not apply at all to passenger ships engaged solely in domestic, as distinct from international, voyages.
There has been great reluctance, for political reasons, to make rules and regulations for domestic ferries, which might trespass into matters of national sovereignty. Korea, as it happens, is considered to be one of the leading advocates of marine safety; and has been a major contributor to the Tokyo MOU. It has provided technical assistance to the initiatives at the IMO, along with the trade association, Interferry. On the need for defining the way in which SOLAS 90 Regulation 8-2 defines the requirements for damaged stability of ferries carrying more than 400 persons.
The issue is, as it has always been, the way in which local rules apply to local ships—a matter, up to now, for the local sovereign state to decide.
The rub, in many ferry sinkings, has been how to prevent or at least inhibit the rapid capsizing of such a vessel caused, not by compartments that have been opened to the sea, but caused for example, by a massive cargo shift in which water enters an intact hull.
A keen observer and friend, Michael Grey, points out that Asian ferries tend to be longer and narrow in configuration than those built for European use, largely because of different sea conditions. Asian ferries use rafts, rather than lifeboats, as life saving appliances, and the SEWOL seems to have had simple stacked rafts, rather than the more sophisticated escape systems that one finds aboard newer ships.
Korea operates a sophisticated modern regulatory system of vessel safety, but past experience has demonstrated that the old adage still applies: our learning process depends very largely on successive accidents, many of them tragic. It is worth noting that in the case of COSTA CONCORDIA, the Italian authorities have focused on the Operations Director ashore. After the loss of ESTONIA in the Baltic, passenger ship operators, at least in Northern Europe, have been required to provide systems, giving the officers ongoing advice on damage control. These systems are expected to be in effect both before and during an accident.
It is clear that the post-ESTONIA SOLAS conference of November, 1995, a year after the SEWOL was built, was a sincere effort to limit, or at least influence, the effect of regional regulations. Up to now, there has not been an effective effort to extend SOLAS to local passenger vessels.
The need to develop meaningful requirements for damaged stability, repeatedly shown in recent years, is all the more apparent in light of the latest tragedy. Let us hope that IMO and Interferry will now receive fuller cooperation from all governments.
By Michael Grey
Posted on | April 18, 2014 | No CommentsThere is an awful photograph, clearly taken from a ship in the close vicinity, of the last moments of the South Korean ferry Sewol. The ship is lying, in what appears to be a smooth sea, on her beam ends, with a list of around 60-70degrees. Deck edges are long immersed, indeed the port of wing of the bridge is level with the water. Overhead, three rescue helicopters hover, but of the frightfulness inside this doomed ship, there is no clue. Just abaft the bridge, level with the water’s edge to port and high in the air to starboard, long double racks of liferafts lie apparently untouched. One the foredeck there is a jumble of small freight containers toppled over to the port side. Of the 300 or so souls… Continue reading
By Michael Grey
Posted on | April 8, 2014 | No CommentsOne of the most endearing features of the United States Navy is its reluctance ever to throw anything away. It is an example to other navies, which often cannot wait to send ships with years of life still in them to the scrapyard. In the US they are carefully stored, anchored in creeks around the seaboard, just in case they are needed. Then, when it is reluctantly concluded that these old ladies are really beyond any productive life, some perceptive person realises that they are historic treasures, and offers them to kindly new owners to use them as museum artefacts. Thus, just about all the last battleships have found new homes, even the odd aircraft carrier, while a number of surface combatants and submarines are local cultural treasures in port… Continue reading
By Michael Grey
Posted on | April 4, 2014 | No CommentsSome years ago, I was given a hard time by a very distinguished aeronautical engineer, whom I happened to be sitting next to at dinner. This was at the height of the bulk carrier crisis, when it seemed that every month a laden bulk carrier would disappear, taking the crew with her. He was appalled at the way in which the shipping industry seemed to accept the disappearance of a big ship and the lack of any provision for finding the wreck and its fate. In aviation, he solemnly lectured me, the industry cannot remain unaware of the cause of any accident involving an aircraft. Bulk carrier disappearances are, thank goodness, mostly a thing of the past, but the remarks of this aero-engineer came back to me as we read… Continue reading
Maritime TV’s ‘Mondays with Maitland’ -Robotics in the Maritime Industry: Outpacing the Human Element?
Posted on | March 31, 2014 | No CommentsIn this eleventh interview in the series, from his position as Founding Chairman of (NAMEPA), Maitland provides his thoughts on roboticsin the maritime industry and whether a fully-automated ship is even feasible… Continue reading
By Michael Grey
Posted on | March 27, 2014 | No CommentsThere is a current craze in which young men (young women probably have more sense) do handstands on the roof parapets of impossibly high buildings, cranes and other towering artefacts, while simultaneously photographing themselves. It is not one the authorities wish to encourage Continue reading
Posted on | March 25, 2014 | No CommentsToday, March 24, is the 25th anniversary of the EXXON VALDEZ oil spill. March is a bad month for these things: on March 18, 1967, the tanker TORREY CANYON struck Pollard’s Rock on the Seven Stones reef between Cornwall and the Scilly Isles. On March 16, 1978, the VLCC AMOCO CADIZ, carrying 22,000 tons of crude oil from the Persian Gulf to Rotterdam, suffered the loss of her hydraulic steering gear off the French Coast. The vessel broke up, and her entire cargo was lost, polluting over 180 miles of the Coast of Brittany. And then came EXXON VALDEZ on March 24, 1989, which struck Bligh Reef, in Prince Williams Sound, off, as it happened, Valdez, Alaska. Continue reading
By Michael Grey
Posted on | March 18, 2014 | No CommentsThese are bewildering times for anyone planning new buildings. “Black swans” – those unexpected events seem to be swarming, while exciting developments like the uprated Panama canal or the cold short cut to Asia are still being analysed for their probable impacts. If these are hard enough to judge, what on earth is going to happen on the fuel front? Continue reading
Posted on | March 7, 2014 | No CommentsOn Monday, March 3rd, Mareforum held the 8th Mare Forum USA 2014 "Shipping - a four dimensional view" conference in Washington DC. Despite snow, which resulted in a US government shutdown, the conference was productive and enlightening covering a myriad of operational and regulatory issues. Clay Maitland was a speaker on the Marine Planning panel, and contributed throughout the day. To view the conference please CLICK HERE
By Michael Grey
Posted on | February 28, 2014 | No CommentsDo we need another global organisation to exercise control over the oceans, operating under the UN banner and focusing on the environmental bits that IMO and UNCLOS don’t already deal with? This seems to have been the purpose of a well-meaning high level conference organised by the Economist magazine in San Francisco. The “World Ocean Summit” which attracted what might be described as the usual suspects, to be lectured by US Secretary of State John Kerry and Prince Charles, seemed to conclude that a World Ocean Organisation should be established to provide oceanic oversight over the two thirds of the earth that are outside national sovereignty. Continue reading keep looking »