The Royal Institution of Naval Architects is co-ordinating the work of the non-UK participants in an international project to study into the safety of Bulk Carriers, using FSA techniques. This major international collaborative project, involving the UK and twelve other countries, is funded jointly by the UK Government and the European Commission.
Serious concerns have been expressed about the safety of bulk carriers since a spate of sinkings in the early 1990ís. IMO prompted an international programme of research and development culminating in the 1997 IMO SOLAS Conference on Bulk Carrier Safety. The research had shown that the ships at greatest risk comprised those of over 15 years of age, and 150m in length, carrying dense cargoes such as coal or iron ore, and built with single side skin construction. The most likely cause of loss was considered to be side shell failure causing flooding of cargo holds and leading to overall structural failure of the ship due to overloading of the structure.
The SOLAS Conference therefore enacted new standards for buoyancy, damage stability, loading and ship structure, including overall longitudinal strength, and the strength of the double bottoms and transverse bulkheads of the cargo holds. In parallel with these standards, there have been improvements in the survey regime for these vessels (ESP Programme), in the safety management (ISM Code), and in loading and discharge procedures (BLU Code), and perhaps as a result of this extra attention there appears to have been a welcome improvement in the casualty rates for bulk carriers.