IHS Markit data reveals South China and East Indies seas most dangerous for crew

South China Sea. Credit: Shutterstock

The world’s most congested and politically contested waterways account for the majority of crew deaths and missing seafarers between 2015-2019, according to data collected for IHS Markit’s State of Maritime Safety report.

The free report shows that the South China and East Indies sea zones, made up of the Malacca and Singapore Straits as well as the archipelagos of Indonesia and Malaysia, account for 157 deaths and 182 missing seafarers for the period 2015-19. The regions make up 30% of total crew deaths and 35% of missing seafarers globally in the last five years.

The Malacca Strait connects the Indian and Pacific Oceans, it is one of the world’s narrowest straits at 1.5 nautical miles wide in certain parts and is also one of the most congested, with an estimated 100,000 vessels a year passing through. Meanwhile, the South China Sea has historically been an area of contention, with issues of sovereignty over the waters, and an aggressive Chinese policy of island building for military purposes, with seafarers having been caught up in international standoffs.

The inaugural State of Maritime Safety report found that most of the deaths in these zones occurred at sea during a ship voyage, with at least 23 vessels reporting a total loss in the South China and East Indies zones. This concurs with the global IHS Markit data as 59% of seafarers are killed at sea and 92% reported missing. Restricted waterways account for the second most common place of death and missing reports, making up 22% and 7% respectively. This again highlights the dangers for crew when manoeuvring in congested and narrow straits of water.

Moreover, vessels sailing under the Indonesian flag ranked the highest in both categories of seafarers being reported missing or killed between 2015-2019, followed by Russia for crew deaths, and Panama for missing crew members.

The annual State of Maritime Safety report, sponsored by classification society DNV GL, provides IHS Markit data-led insights and analysis of vessel casualties and total losses, crew fatalities, inspection and detention regimes, and expert maritime industry opinion.