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Shipping accidents frequent but avoidable

Australian Shipping Occurrence Statistics

Shipping accidents are more frequent than is widely believed but most of these accidents are preventable according to a new ATSB maritime safety report released today. 

The report analyses the shipping statistics of accidents and safety incidents involving Australian-registered trading vessels (cargo and passengers) around the world or those involving trading vessels flying foreign flags within Australia’s maritime jurisdictions.


The safety of crew and shipboard workers is a significant concern for the ATSB and is highlighted as a priority in the ATSB’s SafetyWatch initiative.

Between 2005 and 2012, 245 people were killed, missing or seriously injured from reported marine occurrences. In 2012 there were 6 deaths and 33 serious injuries involving crew and shipboard workers. 

Tragically, the ATSB has found that many of these accidents were avoidable. The safety of crew and shipboard workers is a significant concern for the ATSB and is highlighted as a priority in the ATSB’s SafetyWatch initiative.

In 2012, there were 154 marine safety occurrences reported to the ATSB. This was over 50 per cent higher than the 2005–12 average of 100 occurrences each year. The increase in occurrences in 2012 was due to substantial increases in the number of reported ‘incidents’ (137) and ‘serious incidents’ (12). 

Bulk carriers and cargo vessels (including container, roll-on – roll-off cargo, heavy lift and livestock ships) have been the most common vessels involved in occurrences since 2005 and their involvement increased substantially in 2012. There were also increases in the involvement of tankers, offshore support vessels and tugs. 

The number of foreign vessels involved in occurrences grew considerably in 2012. This was predominantly due to an increased involvement in incidents (up 55 per cent on 2011), but there were also more foreign registered vessels involved in serious incidents. The number of Australian registered vessels involved in occurrences also increased in 2012 and the highest number of occurrences recorded was by Australian, Panamanian and Singaporean registered vessels. 

The ATSB is encouraging operators to learn from the experiences of others in the industry to help identify the safety risks in their operation that could lead to a similar accident or serious incident.

Read the full research report, Australian Shipping Occurrence Statistics 2005 to 2012 (MR-2013-002).


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Last update 04 July 2013