Shipping accidents, while 18% less than 1980, still occur, particularly in areas of environmental significance. As a result, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) conducted research to find out just what the most dangerous shipping routes and oceans are.
Most accidents are linked to weather, poor maintenance of vessels and a lack of regard for any safety regulations. Cargo ships account for 40% of all ships that are lost at sea. The most common cause of ship losses is grounding, as vessels strike the sea bottom. This can be due to poor navigation and ignoring of the technology designed to monitor the ocean depth, weather which can interfere with technology or cause severe damage to the vessel or just a blatant disregard of safety procedures.
Running aground is particularly problematic to environmental agencies as damage can be detrimental to coral reefs and other fragile marine ecosystems. This is particularly true in the South China Sea, where in 2013, the year of the WWF report’s release, a reef in the Philippines was damaged both by a US navy ship and a Chinese fishing boat. Between 1999 and 2013 there were 293 shipping accidents in the South China Sea, home to 76% of the world’s coral species. This is a big issue.
The North Sea, however, is the hotspot for shipping accidents, home to more than 120,000 shipping movements per year, whether freight or passenger. Due to volume of traffic and some very dangerous weather and coastlines, the North Sea is unforgiving. The areas surrounding the British Isles in particular are some of the most dangerous in the world, with incidents including fires, collision and leakage of toxic waste.
With the increase in shipping traffic, shipping accidents will only become more frequent. Technology is improving all the time to help combat this, particularly stopping any vessels from running aground, but the main issue remains vigilance of safety precautions. Too many accidents and spillages occur in the shipping industry due negligence and poor judgment, and these are simple things to put right in such a complex industry.