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HANSA 01-2021

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SCHiFFStECHNiK | SHiP tECHNoloGY Seafarers have expertise to contribute in the prevention of accidents Unmanned? Human errors and expertise... Human error is a factor in most marine accidents, but the presence of the crew is also instrumental in the detection and prevention of accidents. How is unmanned operation of cargo ships going to affect marine accidents? Serious marine accidents are fortunately on the decline, but we still see groundings, collisions and fires occurring at sea every year, resulting in tragic loss of life and with enormous financial and ecological consequences. it is widely acknowledged that a large part of these marine accidents can be at least partly attributed to human error. removing the humans from the equation seems to be the obvious solution, but human error does not simply disappear with the elimination of the onboard crew. Human error is present in every part of the ship’s life, not just in the day-today onboard operation. Even if large cargo ships can be made to operate entirely without a crew, it will still be humans who monitor, remote control and maintain the ships and their machinery and operating systems. a change as fundamental as unmanned operation, however, must be expected to have a major impact on marine accidents. in fact, the reduction of marine accidents is one of the main arguments for the introduction of unmanned ships. Unfortunately, with no large unmanned cargo ships in operation today, a simple side-by-side comparison between manned and unmanned operation is not possible. However, data from conventionally manned ships can tell us much about the impact unmanned operation will have on the occurrence of marine incidents and accidents. The analysis of marine accident reports can tell us something about the role of humans in the occurrence and the consequences of the accidents and some interesting research has already been done on this. What we cannot learn from these reports is the role of ship crews in marine incidents that were prevented from turning into accidents. Near misses an incident that, if not stopped by a fortuitous break in the chain of events, would have resulted in loss is defined as a near miss. The reporting of near miss incidents is a mandatory part of the international Safety Management code, but only has to be done internally within the shipping companies. Near miss reports are not normally made public as they contain business-sensitive information and are typically very hard to get access to. one shipping company, however, very generously provided access to their near miss reports, thus enabling an analysis of the role of the onboard crews in the occurrence, detection and ability to stop the development of these incidents into accidents. The results of the analysis, presented here in brief, were published recently 36 HaNSa – international Maritime Journal 01 | 2021

SCHiFFStECHNiK | SHiP tECHNoloGY in a paper presented at the 19 th international Conference on Computer applications and information technology in the Maritime industries (CoMPit) held in Pontignano, italy. The operational scenario chosen for the analysis follows that of the MUNiN autonomous and/or unmanned ship project, which is also used in other analyses. in this scenario, the vessel is unmanned during sea passage with the ability to request remote assistance from a shore control centre. during manoeuvring and port stays, the ship is manned, remote controlled or continuously monitored from the shore control centre. The analysis © Farstad/HaNSa Navigation related near miss incidents which occur while vessel is unmanned: 8% a total of 481 near misses met the criteria for having the potential to develop into a marine accident if not detected and stopped and were further analysed. one of the interesting results of the analysis is that for almost all near misses relating to navigation, it was assessed that the possibilities for stopping the incident from developing into a marine accident were the same for an unmanned ship as for a manned ship. Near misses detected by onboard human presence: 87% However, the analysis also showed that only 8% of near misses relating to navigation happened when the vessel was in open sea, which, it must be remembered, is the only time the ship is assumed to be unmanned. Therefore, paradoxically, unmanned operation may have very little impact on navigational accidents, which constitute about 70% of marine accidents globally. another interesting finding from the analysis is that 87% of near misses were discovered by human presence. at the same time, it was found that in almost 50% of near misses relating to fire and flooding, the possibility of stopping the incident from developing into an accident was evaluated to be worse on an unmanned ship than on a manned ship. Human error was evaluated to be the cause of 38% of the near misses, which is a significant portion but still much lower than the 75% - 96% often referred to for marine accidents. Whatever the reasons for this discrepancy, humans are clearly the cause of many near misses. removing the crew from the ship does not eliminate the work needed to operate the ship, however. Most of the maintenance work will need to be done on the ship and other jobs may migrate to shore control rooms or shipping offces. The sea is a dangerous environment and there are factors such as ship motion, noise and vibrations that may amplify fatigue and create dangerous situations. However, workers ashore are not immune to fatigue or exempt from human error as countless studies on workplace safety clearly show. insofar as the work tasks move from ship to shore, so too will the near misses and accidents to a great extent. Liabilities or assets? Near misses are not a perfect proxy for major marine accidents and unmanned ships will almost certainly not be constructed simply as a crewless version of today’s modern cargo ships. However, this data and these analyses are important in trying to understand the challenge of building and operating the proposed unmanned ships of the future. The results of this analysis should not be taken to mean that unmanned operation is inherently impossible. They do, however, show some of the challenges that must be overcome to get there. today’s manned ships can be expected to experience one near miss with the potential to develop into a marine accident if not detected and stopped about four times a year. Some incidents will disappear with the elimination of the crew, but many will still happen. incidents will be harder to detect and more diffcult to stop from turning into an accident without people on board. Further, incidents and accidents which occur because of unmanned operation are still an important and yet unknown factor. author: Stig Eriksen SdU Mechanical Engineering department of technology and innovation University of Southern denmark HaNSa – international Maritime Journal 01 | 2021 37

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