Last week's Port of Karachi’s containership collision has made the entire shipping industry more aware of the safety issues that are still endangering people and cargo when vessels berth at ports.
With Karachi Port Trust and Hapag-Lloyd — the container shipping line involved in the incident — still conducting their investigations, commentary on what may have gone wrong is proving scarce, with many professionals apprehensive about speaking out.
It will be down to the ship's crew and quay-side witnesses to form a full picture of what happened (view the video below to form your own opinion).
In ‘Ship Berthing Incidents: Revealing the Reality’, a Port Technology technical paper by Laurence Jones, Risk Assessment Director at TT Club, he writes that ship berthing incidents are “all too common at ports globally”.
TT Club, a provider of insurance and related risk management services to the international transport and logistics industry, has found that the berthing operation is highly dependent on human interaction and that many incidents have their root cause in this fact.
“The two key areas of heightened risk are ship manoeuvring in the port and the process of mooring,” says Jones. “Manoeuvring exposes the ship to collisions, while mooring can result in injuries or fatalities to crew or mooring line personnel.”
He adds that wrongdoings when handling equipment, as well as natural factors, can be to blame, but that training, communication and emerging technologies are all ways to stop incidents.
“Emerging technologies offering vacuum and magnetic mooring systems may improve safety and the securing of ships.
“These technologies negate the need for mooring lines and therefore remove port and ship personnel from potentially dangerous situations.
“Once more, while these systems are not cheap, the improved safety benefits may justify their installation.
“In summary, monitoring and addressing the above issues will help mitigate the occurrence of ship berthing incidents.
“The stakeholders on both the ship and port/terminal sides of the interface need to focus on their own issues, but also work together to manage the safety of people, assets and the environment,” concludes Jones.
When investigating the cause of the Karachi incident, a Port Technology source, which was unable to come forward due to a possible conflict of interest, said that weather conditions and visibility were unlikely factors.
This suggests that human error or mechanical failure may be to blame, but the industry may have to keep guessing when it comes to what truly happened.
There is still no official conclusion as to why a similar high-profile incident took place almost a year ago when the CMA CGM Centaurus containership hit a quay crane at DP World’s Terminal 1 in Jebel Ali Port, Dubai (captured in the video above).
However, one thing is clear; no one will be able to learn from this incident and others if those operating ports and containerships do not release a report.
View the Ship Berthing Incidents: Revealing the Reality, a free-to-access technical paper, to learn more about the factors that can cause an accident
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any information you would like to share about the incidents mentioned in this article.