A major international insurer has warned that marine safety is under threat because of the coronavirus pandemic.
In a new report listing ten coronavirus challenges to the shipping sector, major international insurer Allianz notes a variety of threats to shipping. “Consequences of coronavirus and a sustained economic downturn could threaten long-term safety improvement and trigger an uptick in losses,” the report says.
Among the causes of a reduction in long term safety is an inability to change crews, which is impacting the welfare of sailors, which could lead to an increase in human error on board vessels.
Crew changes are “essential” to ensure safety, the report says, noting that “most major ports” have imposed restrictions on vessels and crew and “120 countries implemented restrictions, while 92 prohibited crew changes entirely”.
The Allianz report adds: “extended periods of working on board a vessel can lead to crew fatigue, which is known to be one of the underlying causes of human error, estimated to be a contributing factor in 75% to 96% of marine incidents”.
The report also highlights the vital role of specialist marine engineers in maintaining ship-related safety.
“Travel restrictions may affect the ability of specialist engineers to access ships to make repairs. Machinery damage or breakdown is already the most common cause of shipping incidents over the past decade, accounting for more than a third (9,081) out of 26,071 incidents analysed between January 2010 and December 2019,” the Allianz report notes.
While Allianz notes that it is “too early” to estimate the final total of insured losses, it notes that, among the likely claims, there are likely to be protection and indemnity claims for disruption to ship operations; cargo insurance claims for delays in transit; cargo claims for fire, theft and damage in storage; and hull insurance claims.
“Longer term, however, the knock-on effects of the pandemic and economic fallout could have far-reaching implications,” the report says.
Rod Nairn, CEO of Shipping Australia said: “On the grounds of safety, we must take seriously the need for seafarer crew changes and the need for specialist personnel to travel. Fatigue is a well-known cause of marine casualties. Machinery breakdowns are well-known causes of shipping incidents.
“If there are more safety incidents, then insurance claims will rise. And if insurance costs rise that will cause the costs of carriage of goods to rise. In turn, that will both increase the costs of goods bought in Australia and it will also increase the costs of farm and other exports from this country.
“It will hit every Australian in the hip-pocket no matter how far away they live from the sea.”