PORTS AND TERMINALS | Improving port safety

Gavin van Marle | Lloyd’s List | 2010.10.12

WHEN APM Terminals launched its safety awareness campaign in 2005, it was recording around 32.5 injuries per million man hours, while four years later the incidence of injury has fallen to just under three per millions man hours – a level at which the oil and chemical industries broadly sit.

Given the recent Deepwater Horizon crisis, comparing the port and terminal industry to their oil and chemical counterparts might not be the most advisable. Nonetheless, the extrapolation that a few years ago working in a port was actually around 10 times more dangerous than working on an oil rig is surprising.

The improvement in accidents in the intervening period is welcome, and demonstrates the efficacy of introducing a prevention-first scheme, which was successful primarily because it got the employees involved at a micro level.

However, this is not just an issue for port and terminal operators. Shipping lines also have their part to play. While terminal operators have had verifiable success in reducing the number of accidents in container yards, especially in regard to container handling vehicle collisions, there is a still a lot of work to be done at the interface between vessel and shore.

Some 40% of all accidents in ports now involve lashing operations, while recent UK P&I Club research highlighted the dangers to mooring crews who are not properly trained for a potentially lethal occupation. In both these cases, labour is predominantly casual and the operations are often outsourced to local contractors.

Doubtless many of these contractors have to train their crews properly, and it is right that a terminal operator should take responsibility for what goes on within its theatre of operations. Indeed, we would welcome operators being given greater legal powers to enforce that responsibility rather than merely trying to ‘influence’ their sub-contractors.

In the case of mooring operations, shipowners have responsibility to make sure mooring equipment is well-maintained and not actually degrading the ropes they are installed to serve. With an average injury cost of $150,000, and numerous cases where medical costs of reconstructive surgery have gone up to $300,000, there is good business case for higher safety standards.

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