And so the voyage ends. The ship has been prepared, ballasted, cleaned,
gas-freed, loaded, discharged, berthed, un-berthed, anchored, been exposed
to hot and cold weather, stormy and calm seas, busy shipping lanes and
quiet ocean passages, brilliant sunshine and thick fog. Hopefully, all
of this without incident, without endangering the marine environment,
without accidents, and with some modest profitability for the owner.
In fact, most ships go about their business quietly and uneventfully
this way. Despite popular belief to the contrary, 99.9995% of all cargoes
are delivered safely and without problems by some 3,000 tankers over
an average distance of 4,700 miles, delivering some 1.4 billion tons
of oil annually.(1) It is, therefore, appropriate to ask why so much
effort is expended on the other 0.0005%? Obviously, even one Exxon
Valdez, Amoco Cadiz, Haven, Kharg V, or Aegean Sea is too much
and a generally good overall industry safety record is no signal for
complacency. Furthermore, there is also ample evidence that there are
too many 'near misses' of ships which just manage to make it, more through
sheer luck than anything else. In other words, there is no room for
complacency of any kind in the shipping industry !
(1) Anderson, Clean seas/oil pollution: an independent tanker owner's view. 6th National Marine Conference, Vancouver, Canada, October 1990
(2) See, for example, Ugland, A KL, Economics of safety. International Summit on Safety at Sea, Oslo, June 1993
(3) See, for example, Public review panel on tanker safety and marine spills response capability, protecting our waters, Final Report. Ottawa: Government of Canada, 1990; and, Inquiry into ship safety, ships of shame, Report from the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Transport, Communications and Infrastructure. Canberra, Australia: Government Publishing Service, 1992
(4) See, Oil Pollution Act, 1990, United States
Despite the fact that ship-source marine pollution now contributes less
than 10 per cent of all pollutants entering the marine environment,
the general public perception, that shipping is a polluting industry,
operating sub-standard vessels with incompetent personnel, prevails.
As it is unlikely that shipping can ever be 100% accident-free, (it
is, after all, a dangerous industry), those within the industry must
continue to strive for ever safer ships and cleaner seas. There is much
to be done. As has been indicated throughout this handbook, there have
to be much better safety and environmental consciousness, better communications,
better motivation, a better command and management structure, better
training and information systems and more understanding of the implications
of negligence. As has also been pointed out, carelessness and complacency
go hand in hand, and going 'back to basics', in terms of safety procedures,
is the best route to uneventful voyages. For example, in the aviation
industry, even a pilot with ten thousand hours in command will automatically
go through a detailed checklist each and every time before a flight.
Operating a modern tankship should be no different.