Human error has long been regarded as a major cause of incidents in the shipping sector. It is estimated that between 75% to 96% of marine accidents can be attributed to human error. Such incidents also rank as the top cause of liability loss, driven by the high costs that can be associated with the impact of a major event, such as wreck removal (which is becoming more complex and expensive, primarily due to larger ships and environmental concerns), passenger and crew liabilities and pollution and litigation costs, for example. The Costa Concordia and MV Rena groundings are two well-documented incidents caused by human error which have resulted in significant liability losses over the past five years.
Crew negligence and inadequate vessel maintenance are potentially increasing areas of risk in the current tough economic shipping environment, particularly if shipowners opt to recruit crew with less experience and fewer qualifications/training in order to save money or choose to stretch maintenance work to the longest possible intervals. Negligence/poor maintenance is already one of the top causes of liability loss in the sector, so vigorous inspection and maintenance regimes are crucial. Obtaining buy-in from all levels of the workforce is important in creating a transparent and effective mechanism for reporting accidents and other potential areas of concern, learning lessons and, ultimately, implementing preventative measures as a result.
Other major causes of liability loss include: crew injuries, subsequent loss of income and expenses such as medical costs; damages to cargo while engaged in handling activities; leaks at port terminals resulting in environmental damages; vessel collisions leading to pollution spills; and accidental damage to key infrastructure, such as natural gas pipes, for example.