Readers have been no doubt not been able to avoid all of the mass media reporting related to the Costa Concordia cruise ship disaster.  Not only was there loss of life but the circumstances related to this accident are very troubling for all of us to comprehend. Costa Concordia Accident

Why did the ship’s master navigate his vessel so close to a known reef? Then there are the unconscionable implications that the captain abandoned his ship before all survivors.

Carnival Corporation, the parent to Costa Crociere was quick to point a finger toward the ship’s captain, Francesco Schettino.  Meanwhile, global-wide media images flooding social and traditional media and continuing incident coverage are fueling a wave of concerns among maritime officials related to the state of safety procedures for large cruise ships.  There are reports that the International Maritime Association is prepared to review safety standards concerning large ships.

As supply chain professionals, we often approach such incidents from a broader lens.  In other words, is this an isolated incident or an indicator of broader issues concerning the safety of very large and potentially dangerous vessels, regardless of cargo?

In early January, we noted New Zealand’s worst maritime disaster, the incident of the stricken cargo ship Rena which is breaking-up on a highly ecological barrier reef.  The vessel struck the Astrolabe Reef enroute to the port of Tauranga in early October and has remained aground all of this time.  There remain concerns for fuel spillage along with some containers carrying hazardous materials spilling their contents in a highly maritime sensitive area. That incident raised troubling questions as to why the ship’s captain steered his vessel dangerously close to a known and long-chartered barrier reef while steaming at 17 knots.  This ship had documented safety problems, including the lashing of containers, and had been retained in previous ports. That incident has raised questions regarding ‘flag of convenience” ship registration to circumvent safety standards as well as whether ship operators and the shipping industry as a whole, reacting to overcapacity and financial trends has taken a zeal for cost control too far.

This weekend, an explosion aboard the 4191 ton oil tanker Doola No. 3 sailing off the coast of South Korea occurred as crewmen were draining gas from an oil tank. That vessel normally transports diesel fuel. had previously discharged a shipment of6500 tons of gasoline.

There have also been other ship related accidents including the August 2010 ship collision that involved the container ship MSC Chitra in waters adjacent to the port of Mumbai.

In six-sigma methodology, we are often reminded to analyze cause and affect patterns.  Too many and too frequent ship related accidents with unexplained circumstances should motivate maritime and government safety officials to take a comprehensive view of current operating practices involving the maritime industry.  Too many lives and too many exposures to more tragedy are at stake.

Bob Ferrari

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