Venue: London Docklands, UK
Is the shortsea container shipping industry capable of implementing safe working practices given the operational complexities and commercial pressures it faces today? On 22 January at a venue in London Docklands, a one-day conference will be staged, bringing together a wide variety of people, all having an interest one way or another in the business of shortsea shipping. Taking as its starting point a report by the UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) into an incident on board the 868TEU UK-flag container vessel Annabella in February 2007, the conference will address the question “Is the shortsea container shipping industry capable of implementing safe working practices given the operational complexities and commercial pressures it faces today?”.
On a voyage from Rotterdam and Antwerp to Helsinki, a stack of seven 30ft containers stowed in Annabella’s no 3 hold collapsed. Fortunately little damage was done and no one suffered injuries but the outcome could have been catastrophic given that the top three containers in the stack were carrying Butylene Gas (IMDG Class 2.1, UN 1012). Furthermore, Annabella had been built to an open-hatch design; no 3 hold was an open hold.
The subsequent report by the MAIB was thorough, various specific failings were identified and recommendations were directed to those involved including the ship manager and the charterer. However, the terminal operators and the software suppliers were also found wanting in certain areas.
It should be noted here that Annabella was a modern ship built by one of Germany’s leading shipbuilders and managed by a highly professional ship management company. That such an accident could happen to this ship, the conference organisers suggest, indicates that some aspects of shortsea container shipping operations are fundamentally flawed and need examination, especially with regard to the future development of intra-European intermodal container equipment.