South Korean experts appeal for collective efforts in maintaining maritime safety
A noticeable five-year hike in maritime accidents is attributed to human errors, prompting numerous experts to appeal for the Korean government’s actions to contain the spike. The increased incidents average at 218 yearly, while casualties peaked at 553 from 411.
Mixed sentiments about record numbers
The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries in South Korea revealed the total number of accidents (including physical, environmental damage, human injury and fatality) rose sharply from 2,307 cases in 2016 to 3,156 cases in 2020. Noting the worrying spike, experts urged the government to demonstrate more efforts in identifying the root causes and developing preventive measures. The government however begged to differ: contending all stakeholders’ cooperation with national policies is essential to materialise this initiative.
For a country with four seasons, it is an opportune move to attribute maritime accidents to seasonal factors. However, Lee Hye-Jin, a logistics researcher at the Korea Maritime Institute corrected the convention. “Almost 90 per cent of maritime accidents are due to operators’ unintended mistakes, not from natural factors or using old ships. Organisations such as the Korean Maritime Safety Tribunal, Korea Maritime and Port Administration, and Korea Maritime Institute are offering safety training programmes. The government is also introducing pre-emptive measures to mitigate (human errors), but the number of cases has not decreased in the past five years,” Lee noted in his report.
An official from Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries revealed on condition of anonymity that safety guidelines and measures corresponding to each season were introduced. He remarked, “
The government comes up with a new plan every year. We have plans prepared for every season to prevent maritime accidents.”
Human errors are the real causes
A study by the Korean Society of Marine Environment and Safety pointed out ship collisions, (amongst the types of maritime accidents) are due to human errors. 63 per cent of collisions involving stand-on vessels were crew’s failure to avoid clashing while piloting give-way vessels. The latter is responsible for sourcing for an alternative route to avoid collision.
Contrastingly, 74.3 per cent of crew onboard give-way vessels were observed to be inattentive towards the surveillance systems, while 17.4 per cent were not looking out for approaching sailboats. The study added ineffective monitoring and other human errors were the main cause due to crew’s distraction with other tasks.
Lee added the government needs to carry out more regular and effective training programmes to eradicate such human errors in maritime accidents. “Every industry operator’s sense of safety is paramount in preventing maritime accidents and having less damage from them. We should carry out regular safety training for the operators. The government should conduct stronger, periodical vessel audits and provide safety information based on in-depth analysis to ensure safety in maritime logistics and transportation. This way, the government will be able to contribute to lessen the number of maritime accidents,” he noted.
The Ocean and Fisheries Ministry official argued that promoting a sense of safety is one of the biggest challenges, and that this burden should not solely rest on the government’s shoulder. All industry stakeholders need to take responsibility for this important life-saving function.
“The government does implement stricter audits of sailboats, restricted access to certain dangerous areas, and investigate accidents every year. Accidents still happen when operators do not follow our safety guidelines. Ultimately, this is something that the operators have to take responsibility for, as safety and human lives are directly in their hands. We hope operators can realise the importance and embrace the need to work with the government to ensure maritime safety,” the ministry official asserted.
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