Inadequate training and lack of attention to competence development becoming a worrying trend
BASIC principles of shipping safety are being sidelined by the environmental agenda and undermined by poor quality training, according to one of the world’s largest classification societies.
Addressing shipowning representatives in London today, Det Norske Veritas president Tor Svensen warned that inadequate training and an industry-wide lack attention to the human element and competence development had become a worrying trend in shipping operations that was unduly increasing risk.
He also questioned whether the political focus on environmental safety had distracted the industry to such a degree that safety was in danger of being downgraded as a priority.
“I am getting quite tired of seeing oily birds take priority,” Mr Svensen told the International Chamber of Shipping annual conference. “I know it is not politically correct to say so and I am not going to devalue the importance of oil pollution to animal life and fisheries, but the focus somehow is wrong here and we need to re-establish the balance between safety and environmental risk”.
“Zero tolerance to loss of human life is equally important as zero environmental damage”.
Internal analysis of statistics by DNV has revealed a clear upwards trend in the number of casualties directly related to navigational errors. Despite an historic fall in casualty statistics, the trend has now reversed to such a degree since the beginning of the decade that the frequency of serious accidents is now the same as was in 1988.
This is not the first time that DNV has issued the industry with a frank warning about declining safety standards. According to DNV statistics collated in 2008, collisions, groundings and contacts then accounted for 60% of the most costly incidents and estimates showed that the costs of those accidents had doubled. With navigational errors still showing no sign of declining two years on Mr Svensen’s latest caution to industry colleagues is likely to ring alarm bells, particularly within P&I Clubs, where Lloyd’s Lists understands several similar studies are producing similarly concerning results.
“Further statistical analysis is needed, but I am sounding a warning to the industry here,” Mr Svensen told Lloyd’s List following his key note speech. “I fully support all the efforts being made on the environment and I think it is a very important issue for shipping, but we must keep our eyes on the ball when it comes to safety. So much has already been undone on training”.
DNV officials have been logging concerns during audits and projects for shipping companies and according to Mr Svensen a worrying trend in declining standards has been identified. Much of the training currently on offer has been described by DNV as “poor quality” and only a limited amount of time is being spent on training. Shipping companies meanwhile are struggling to deliver training on ‘soft skills and only a handful of companies measure the effectiveness of their training.
“How many shipping companies actually regularly assess their senior officers in terms of competence and how many are asked to leave their job because they are not fulfilling expectations on competency? All this is standard in other industries and we need to reassess what tools we are using. I fear that we have lost some of our focus in general on human element and specifically competency.”