Greater data transparency and human factor fundamental to improving safety

State of Maritime Safety roundtable. Credit: IHS Markit

The human element is often missing from safety data and more information sharing is needed across the industry, if safety outcomes are to be improved. That was the consensus reached by safety experts at the State of Maritime Safety roundtable discussion, hosted by Safety at Sea magazine on 23 October 2019.

The roundtable, sponsored by DNV GL and hosted at the IHS Markit headquarters in London, used IHS Markit data as a base for a lively discussion over a wide range of safety topics, with participants from UK Chamber of Shipping, the ICS, Inmarsat, the Nautical Institute, and V Group, among others.

Matt Dunlop, CEO V Group, lamented that proprietary data on vessel incidents, while highly valuable, usually remains within companies and is rarely shared. Dunlop referred to a safety poll that was carried out after a collision incident in 2017 to establish the contributing factors to the incident and how to improve safety culture within the company. The data collected was essential to best practice and changing the safety culture by establishing the causes of the incident; it was agreed that the shipping industry should be more open in information sharing.

Fena Boyle, policy manager UK Chamber of Shipping, outlined the difficulties of not only collecting data but also emphasized that there is no ‘quick fix’ when it comes to improving safety at sea. As the cargo sectors within the industry are so different, the data collected is rarely comparable and hence realistic goals need to be set before embarking on data collection. Boyle also stressed that there needs to be more information sharing within the industry as well as greater transparency to improve safety.

Rachel White, CEO secretariat at cargo-handling NGO ICHCA, , made the observation that while the majority of available maritime data across the industry focuses on technical factors, the human factor was just as critical to maritime safety.

White went on to comment that GDPR constraints have presented a significant obstacle, especially when trying to establish a global overview of seafarer casualties and incidents. “You need access to mass data to be able to spot trends that are not readily apparent”, commented White.

IHS Markit will publish its full findings and analysis of contemporary maritime safety data in the State of Maritime Safety report, which will be made available in January 2020.