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Insurers scrutinise causes of container casualties

Insurers scrutinise causes of container casualties
The Australia Maritime Safety Authority has recently dealt with several incidents

The number of recent high profile incidents featuring container casualties has led insurers to pinpoint the root causes of the problem in a webinar organised by container freight specialist TT Club and protection and indemnity insurer, UK P&I Club.

Overall, the industry loses a relatively small amount of roughly one unit per 160,000 carried but each loss has significance to a range of stakeholders, noted Stuart Edmonston, loss prevention director at the UK P&I Club.

These include the ship operators, cargo interests, insurers and, not least the natural environment both at sea and on shore.

TT Club uniquely concentrates its energies on factors considered within its Cargo Integrity campaign that have a bearing on this type of casualty, such as the correct declaration of cargo mass as well as the safe packing and securing of the freight within the container, together with the container structure and maintenance.

Peregrine Storrs-Fox TT Club’s risk management director said: “While adverse weather and the avoidance of it through to considered design and construction of container ships are clearly vital, the ‘moving parts’ of causation range through all aspects of container operations.”

Ship-board factors run from proper inspection and regular maintenance of deck fittings, locking bars, twistlocks and lashing bridges, to the use of accurate data to predict parametric rolling and other ship motions, and the incidence of a so-called ‘stiff ship’ situation, at the design and construction stage.

Neil Gardiner of casualty investigators, Brookes Bell stated: “In addition to taking into account the bending motions of ships in heavy seas in the design of, particularly, the larger container ships of today, operational prevention of isolated and unnecessarily high stacks coupled with high GMs should be prioritised.

“The whipping action that ships often experience can have a significant effect on high and isolated container stacks that may have been left between interim discharge/load ports to avoid restowing.”

He added that more accurate data on the physical forces at play on containers stacks should be used in calculations at the ship design and construction phase.

Tom Starr, Senior Claims Director at UK P&I Club pinpointed the difficulties in establishing causation and liability, noting that the large and sophisticated ships of today coupled with the involvement of numerous parties make evidencing seaworthiness, proper stowage and the cause of a casualty is a huge challenge.

He added: “Add to this the variable investigation standards of flag states in conducting official investigations; it may be unsurprising that lessons learnt for the future can be speculative.”

With regards to better communication between all parties, Starr concluded: “When these casualties occur and are under investigation, it is only through more transparency about the actions of the moving parts that future incidents can be minimised.”