Maritime Safety Requires A New Approach


  • The whole industry needs to change its focus.
  • However, ticking boxes never made anyone safer.
  • Therefore, SAYFR has developed tailor-made psychometric instruments to assess these topics and has a database of responses from about 300 000 seafarers.

For years, the shipping sector has worked on improving safety through laws and procedures. Despite this, severe mishaps in shipping are still a possibility as reported by Splash247.

Marine mishaps

The entire industry must shift its focus. In the first of a two-part series for Splash, Dr Torkel Soma, chief scientific officer at SAYFR, argues that ticking boxes never made anyone safer.

The majority of marine mishaps (80%) are caused by human mistakes, according to well-documented statistics. Even so, the majority of learning efforts are focused on technical issues and the addition of procedures and checklists.

Despite this bias, numerous accident investigation reports point to leadership or safety culture as the core cause of contemporary incidents like the Bulk Jupiter, El Faro, Helge Ingstad, and Costa Concordia, as well as earlier ones like the Exxon Valdez, Bow Mariner, Herald of Free Enterprise, and Amoco Cadiz.

Industry blind spot

The critical failures leading to the accident were in most cases known before the accident took place.

This is a blind spot because the biased focus on technicalities and “impeccable” safety inspections make people reluctant to be open about their failures, concerns and mistakes.

Thousands of auditors and inspectors across the world are engaged by classification societies, flag and port state authorities, vetting and insurance companies and HSEQ departments.

They verify that ships do the right thing and comply with technical and procedural requirements.

However, ticking boxes never made anyone safer.

Cover-up culture

Also, worryingly, there is a cover-up culture causing errors and unsafe practices.

There are now so many procedures and checklists that, in some cases, it is impossible to comply with all of them.

The fear of failure is driving accident statistics, and surveys reveal that 45% of seafarers admit that they regularly do not comply with procedures.

I firmly believe that human factors are key to preventing threats and failures from escalating.

Yet improving safety or performance is about improving not only individuals but also the collaboration between sea and shore staff, between officers and crew and between different nationalities and cultures onboard ships.

Huge potential to reduce accidents

While this is acknowledged, it is not always addressed, thus I feel a new approach is required to promote collaboration and reduce risks. Collaboration is, in fact, highly linked to the risk of accidents and business disruption. Our experience working on a variety of projects over the years has shown that major accident risk can be reduced by up to 75%.

However, there is no quick answer, such as training courses, to promote teamwork and adopt behavioural changes. Changing the culture is crucial, and it takes time. Proven approaches must be employed to assist operators in improving their safety approach.

Cultural assessments key to improving safety

In order to understand how the organizational culture influences safety, there is a need to use methodologies specialized for this purpose.

One thing that many people are ignorant of is that a key professional competence of organizational psychology is advanced mathematics and data analysis.

The professionals drive the process while the data provides the results.

As a consequence, the more and better the data on these topics, the more valid, reliable and to-the-point are the results.

Therefore, SAYFR has developed tailor-made psychometric instruments to assess these topics and has a database of responses from about 300 000 seafarers.

Reduction in the frequency of serious accidents

It is not only the psychometric instruments that rely on data.

The use of digitalization, the internet of things (IoT), sensor data, machine learning, and big data has picked up in recent years.

The idea is that those with the most data can create the best analytics and forecasts.

With the use of more quality data, risk assessments and worst-case scenario simulations provide reliable predictions and identify effective interventions to prevent accidents.

This is what really helps to improve safety.

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Source: Splash247


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