Maritime safety patterns revealed in new GMDSS data research

Inmarsat has published a new report based on an analysis of Global Maritime Distress and Safety Services (GMDSS) alerts from ships, detailing the vessel types and location hotspots most frequently involved in incidents requiring a distress call.

Drawing on data from vessels worldwide between 2018 and 2020, The Future of Maritime Safety report is published by the Inmarsat Research Programme and has been written by the team at Intent Communications.

The new report also includes contributions from Kitack Lim, Secretary General of the International Maritime Organization; Guy Platten, Secretary General, International Chamber of Shipping; Ashok Srinivasan, Manager, Maritime Safety and Security, BIMCO; Kuba Szymanski, Secretary General, Intermanager; and Stuart Edmonston, Director, Loss Prevention, UK P&I Club.

“We believe that the creation of an online anonymised data lake of safety information will allow us to identify weak spots and solutions, allocate resources and measure progress towards enhanced safety,” said Peter Broadhurst, Senior Vice President of Safety & Security, Inmarsat Maritime.

“Where safety is concerned, data should be shared to create a level playing field for the entire industry.”

With the commercial vessel fleet growing by 4.1% in 2019, the report logs 834 distress calls made by Inmarsat GMDSS service users in 2020, compared to 761 in the previous year. The publication notes a broadly stable relationship between ships in service and distress call numbers, though specific areas are highlighted for further examination.

During the three-year period covered by the research, tankers overtook fishing vessels to generate the highest number of GMDSS alerts (122 calls in 2020). The high frequency of alerts from coastal waters is interpreted by the report as relating to the operation of older tonnage. Alerts from deep sea tankers are relatively scarce, where younger tonnage is deployed.

The number of distress calls from bulk carriers and container ships remained largely consistent over the period, although the former witnessed a distinct cluster in the Yellow Sea between China, North Korea and South Korea, while the latter saw a spike in East Asia as Covid-19 unfolded in 2020.

“This report establishes significant trends that merit close scrutiny by all stakeholders and offers a powerful example of the potential for analytics and new technology to provide the basis for a data-driven and more proactive safety,” Mr Broadhurst added.

“Today, a ship’s captain can often be seen as a single point of failure. This is in stark contrast to the ‘Swiss-cheese’ model of risk maritime regulators now accept, and the goal-based and proactive approach that puts rapidly evolving technology at the heart of better supporting the safety of life at sea.”

The report can be downloaded here.

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Rob O'Dwyer

Rob is Chief Network Officer and one of the founders of Smart Maritime Network. He also serves as Chairman of the Smart Maritime Council. Rob has worked in the maritime technology sector since 2005, managing editorial for a range of leading publications in the transport and logistics sector. Get in touch by email by clicking here, or on LinkedIn by clicking here.

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