Safety and Shipping Review 2023

Shipping transports between 80% to 90% of world trade onboard different vessels so maritime safety is critical. Improvements have been significant over the past decade in particular. Thirty years ago, the global fleet was losing 200+ vessels a year. At the end of 2022 fewer than 40 losses were reported. It has now been six years since a triple‑digit total loss year.

The review shows 38 total losses of vessels (over 100 gross tonnage [GT]) during 2022, compared with 59 a year earlier, down by 36%. Annual shipping losses have declined by 65% over the past decade (109 total losses in 2013) reflecting the positive effect of an increased focus on safety measures over time, such as regulation, improved ship design and technology and risk management advances.

South China, Indochina, Indonesia and the Philippines is the global loss hotspot, both over the past year and decade (204 total losses). It accounted for one in four losses in 2022 (10), driven by factors such as high levels of trade, congested ports, older fleets and extreme weather. The Arabian Gulf, British Isles, and West Mediterranean waters were the second top loss locations (3). The past 10 years have seen 807 total losses reported. Three regions, South China, Indochina, Indonesia and the Philippines, East Mediterranean and Black Sea (118), and Japan, Korea and North China (76) account for almost 50% of global loss activity over this time.

Around a quarter of vessels lost in 2022 were cargo (10). Together, fishing (6) and passenger (5) vessels also accounted for a quarter of the total. Foundered (sunk/submerged) was the main cause of total loss across all vessel types (20), accounting for over 50%. Contributing factors included bad weather, poor visibility, flooding and machinery breakdown. Fire/explosion ranked as the second top cause of loss (8). Vessel collision ranked third (4).

Extreme weather was reported as a factor in at least 8 losses during 2022, while January was the most frequent month for losses with 6.

While total losses declined over the past year, the number of shipping casualties or incidents reported remained consistent (3,032 compared to 3,000 a year earlier). The British Isles saw the highest number of incidents (679) while machinery damage/failure accounted for close to half of all incidents globally (1,478). There were over 200 fires reported during 2022 (209) – the highest for a decade, making this the third top cause of incidents with activity up 17% year‑on‑year.

The East Mediterranean and Black Sea region has seen the most shipping incidents over the past decade (4,969). Globally, most of the 27,477 incidents reported over the past decade have been caused by machinery damage/failure (10,753), followed by collision (3,098) and wrecked/stranded (2,936).

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