Last year, 75 large ships were lost worldwide. This represents a significant improvement on the 10-year loss average of 127, but for Captain Andrew Kinsey, one of the issues that won’t go away when looking at the root causes of accidents is safe manning levels.

Kinsey, Senior Marine Risk Consultant at Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS), is one of the experts behind the company’s newly released report Safety and Shipping Review 2015.

For the past decade foundering has been the most common cause of loss, accounting for 65 percent of losses (49) in 2014. Grounding was the second most common cause (13). Vessel construction is not the only weak point. Levels of crew experience, training and emergency preparedness can also be inadequate.

Recent casualties such as Sewol and Norman Atlantic have once again raised significant concerns over training and emergency preparedness on passenger ships three years after the Costa Concordia disaster, states the AGCS report.


“With regards to an estimate to how important crewing levels are to causality statistics: It is not just crewing levels, but also training levels,” says Kinsey. “I would rather have one trained and qualified able seaman than five green ordinary seamen.

“I was on my first tug when I was about six and grew up within the industry. My father, older brothers, cousin and nephew all go to sea, and I spent over 25 years at sea. Having enough qualified crew has always been, and will always be, a concern. As a master of a vessel, if you are not worried about having qualified crew on board you are not doing your job,” he says.

IMO’s 890 principles of safe manning state that the following onboard training functions should be taken into account when determining safe manning levels:

•    ongoing training requirements for all personnel, including the operation and use of fire-fighting and emergency equipment, life-saving appliances and watertight closing arrangements;
•    specialized training requirements for particular types of ships;
•    the need to provide training opportunities for entrant seafarers to allow them to gain the training and experience needed.

“The situation is getting more dire now than in the past. Reduced crew sizes have done away with the entry level positions, so there are fewer chances for the younger generation to get a chance to go to sea and see if it appeals to them. It’s not a very glamorous profession; long hours, months away from home, isolated life style, constant pressure to cut wages and do more with less, etc. All these issues give rise to the current crewing shortage.”

Human Error

Kinsey cites another report: Human Error and Marine Safety by Dr. Anita M. Rothblum of the U.S. Coast Guard Research & Development Center. Rothblum states that studies have shown that human error contributes to:

• 84-88 percent of tanker accidents

•79 percent of towing vessel groundings

• 89-96 percent of collisions

• 75 percent of allisions (collisions involving one moving and one stationary object)

• 75 percent of fires and explosions


Amendments to the ISM Code which took effect on January 1, 2015 could shake up the perennial problem of minimum safe manning levels that are not fit for purpose, says Kinsey. The amendment has shifted the onus of responsibility back on to the shipowner, requiring that the ship is manned in excess of its Minimum Safe Manning Document in order to comply with hours of rest rules and other requirements that may arise due to the operation of the ship.

Owners will now be held liable if they have not made a proper assessment of the necessary minimum safe manning level or for not reassessing a change in the circumstances of the vessel.

In the shipping industry you always have the top tier and the lower tier operators, says Kinsey. “The impact on the top tier carriers will be minimal if any - you don’t want companies that are just on the edge of compliance. Minimum standards are called minimum for a reason, a good risk is the vessel operator who exceeds the minimum limit. An example is carrying entry level ratings, or cadets in addition to the minimum crew so that you are training your next generation of seafarer’s onboard, giving them practical and real world training and ensuring you have a viable manpower pool in the future.”


While minimum manning levels are reducing the ability to train people on board, crews are also being mandated to meet often unachievable hours of rest and are taking on secondary and tertiary duties, says Kinsey. Improved training alone is not the panacea.

According to AGCS, minimum safe crewing levels should only be the default level for an emergency situation and not the normal day-to-day level for safe operations. “Good shipping companies will never keep the crew down at the safe minimum level; they will always have additional officers or cadets on board,” says AGCS Senior Marine Risk Consultant and Captain Jarek Klimczak.

Klimczak has sailed on a six hours on/six hours off rotation at sea and says he understands the difficulties facing today’s seafarers, especially those involved in short sea trades. “A six on/six off rotation can never provide the proper rest time,” he says. “A solution could be to shorten contracts so that you are only on board for two to three weeks.”

The issue of rest has been a concern around the industry. The Paris, Indian Ocean and Black Sea MoUs released preliminary results for their 2014 Concentrated Inspection Campaign (CIC) on STCW hours of rest in January which jointly resulted in 57 ships being detained.

As well as safety risks, shipowners could also face issues with their insurance negotiations. Underwriters and risk consultants reference the IACS Flag State Performance Table when reviewing the suitability of vessels for coverage, says Kinsey. “If you are not on the white list you are not going to get coverage from a top tier company, and your rates will be higher if you can get coverage. It is risk based - the higher the risk; the higher the rate.”

Author: Captain Andrew Kinsey                            Source: