Last year alone 14 bulk carriers were lost, with 23 fatalities. The average age of the ships was more than 20 years. Structural failure remains a consistent and significant cause of loss, while the presence of heavy cargoes features in many of the losses. Intercargo, the representative body of the international dry-bulk shipping sector, is calling for unity in the shipping industry over the issue of bulk carrier safety. Intercargo is calling for an assessment of minimum shipbuilding standards, arguing that many standard bulk carrier designs have become too optimised.
Expressing Intercargo’s support for unified, minimum bulk carrier standards, its chairman, Frederick Tsao, says: ‘It is time that all parties in the maritime industry moved forward in harmony to achieve the ultimate goal, the elimination of bulk carrier casualties due to structural failure. If the occurrence of such tragic accidents is to be prevented, what we need is not confrontation but co-operation.’
‘As an industry, we are subject to a vicious circle of endless cost-cutting. A typical example is the way that cost pressure forces shipowners to press for lower shipbuilding prices. The shipyards respond by refining their safety margins, through exerting pressure on classification societies’.
Fierce competition between shipbuilding nations has led to individual shipyards looking to design factors to save costs when building bulk carriers. The issue has returned to the forefront less than two years after the IMO introduced regulations to eradicate the problems of bulk carrier safety.