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WWF Report Ranks Accident-Prone Shipping Lanes

by Amanda Banks, Tax-News.com, London

11 June 2013


A new study prepared by the WWF for World Oceans Day on June 8, 2013, aims to chart the oceans that have historically been danger hotspots for incidents involving ships.

The South China Sea and East Indies, east Mediterranean and Black Sea, North Sea and British Isles were found to be the most dangerous waters for the passage of ships based on statistics collating past accidents.

"Since 1999 there have been 293 shipping accidents in the South China Sea and east Indies, home of the Coral Triangle and 76 percent of the world’s coral species," said Dr Simon Walmsley, Marine Manger, WWF International. "As recently as April this year we've seen a Chinese fishing boat run aground on a protected coral reef in the Philippines that had already been damaged by a US Navy ship in January."

Fishing vessels accounted for nearly a quarter of the vessels lost at sea but general cargo ships account for over 40 percent. Cargo ships often operate short shipping routes, associated with tramp trading where ships don’t have a set route and pick up opportunistic trade, particularly in Southeast Asia.

The waters around the British Isles are home to one of the highest numbers of shipping accidents in the world. The busy shipping lanes around the British Isles, North Sea and Bay of Biscay had the fourth largest number of shipping accidents in the world, with 135 reported incidents between 1999 and 2011 including fires, collisions and leakage of toxic waste. The North Sea is one of the most intensively sailed seas in the world with over 120,000 ship movements taking place there every year.

Walmsley continued: "Shipping lanes around the UK are already some of the world's busiest and will get busier as the global fleet expands. The risk of accidents and environmental disaster is only going to increase so efforts must be made to lower the risk."

"Unfortunately in the past we've seen that it is only after a major accident that safety and environment measures are reviewed. That needs to change if we want to maintain healthy seas."

The risk to the environment is directly linked to the type and amount of hazardous substances, including oil, being transported and the sensitivity of the marine area where any accident could occur.

In 2002, the Prestige oil tanker sunk resulting in over 70,000 tonnes of oil being released into the Atlantic Ocean off the Spanish coast. "The Prestige oil spill caused not only environmental impacts but economic losses estimated at EUR8bn (USD10.6bn). Even small scale accidents in very sensitive environments, like the Great Barrier Reef, can have profound environmental consequences," highlighted Walmsley.

"We really want to see the shipping industry promote greater owner and operator responsibility and encourage owners to register with better flag states, the country which a vessel is registered to."

"Additionally, irresponsible and badly performing owners and countries need to be exposed in order to motivate them to significantly increase their standards which will decrease the number of accidents we see still occurring today," Walmsley urged.

TAGS: marine

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