Worldwide there are approximately 3,000 merchant ports and the work of the Harbour Master can vary widely from country to country and from port to port even within the same country.
An independent review of the risks to shipping within the UK’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) was published on 2 September by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).
This report was initiated from a recommendation by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch to assess the risk to and from shipping in the Dover Strait, following their report into a shipping incident in November 2016.
While that incident was localised, the scope of the recommendation was expanded to include the entire EEZ in order to provide the MCA with a broad comprehension of risk within its waters. Integral to the report’s development was a series of consultation events with key stakeholders across the UK which took place last summer.
The report is being used as part of an ongoing assessment for the future provision of Emergency Towing Vessels (ETVs), whose role is to intercept ships which have become disabled before they ground or collide with other ship traffic. The ETV would secure a tow and take the casualty to a place of safety. While an ETV cannot always prevent an incident from occurring, risk assessments show that its presence mitigates some of the risk.
The UK’s current emergency towage provision, in addition to commercial tugs that are potentially available but subject to the spot market, is the Ievoli Black. This ocean-going tug has been operating off northern and north western Scotland and the Scottish Isles since 2016. It is contracted by the MCA until the end of 2021.
Recommendations from the report have been based on factors such as:
The study captured the entirety of the UK EEZ but also focussed on seven key shipping and/or environmentally sensitive geographical areas.
The MCA is now engaging with ministers to assess the implications of the report’s recommendations.
Russel Freeman from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency commented: ‘There are no quick answers with this. The independent report makes it clear that there isn’t a definitive cost benefit to employing ETVs but because prevention is better than dealing with the result of an incident, there is an argument that says we do need them.
‘It is still the fact that the Government believes the responsibility for the cost of shipping should be borne by the industry and not the taxpayer. However, we also recognise the waters around north and north-west Scotland are a special case because of their significant environmental sensitivity and their contribution to both the Scottish and UK economy.’
‘We are looking at the report and its recommendations, particularly in the light of the comments around provision in the South West Approaches, but taking account of the relative priority in the context of the current spending environment.’
The report can be seen here: www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-eez-shipping-risks-and-emergency-towage-provision-study
Unlike an emergency situation on land, when a ship faces a crisis at sea, Masters cannot simply dial the emergency services for instant assistance. They take responsibility for dealing with the situation, acting decisively to protect lives and prevent or minimise damage to the ship, environment and cargo.
The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF) have worked in partnership to provide the industry with a practical guide
Peril at Sea and Salvage: A Guide for Masters outlines the actions a Master should take when confronted with an emergency: from the initial assessment and immediate actions, through to towage or salvage arrangements, as may be necessary. It also explains the importance of prompt notification to relevant parties with onshore support, particularly coastal States and the company.
A section is included with recommendations for a company’s shore-based personnel.
Guy Platten, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Shipping commented: ‘Over the years we have seen a reduction in shipping emergencies and major incidents due to the development of regulations governing the safe operation and management of ships. Crews are regularly trained in emergency response preparedness and the industry has adopted a compliance culture.
According to a media briefing from IMO the key project to support the reduction of GHG emissions from shipping in developing countries through regional maritime technology cooperation centres has been extended to June 2021.
Known as the Global MTCC Network (GMN) Project this implemented by IMO and funded by the European Union.
There is a global network of Maritime Technology Cooperation Centres (MTCCs). These undertake pilot projects and promote technologies and operations to improve energy efficiency in the maritime sector, it is reported.
Since their establishment three years ago, the MTCCs in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific have established strong regional networks and are becoming important regional players, with technical expertise in the field of maritime energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions knowledge.
These Centres have undertaken a range of pilot projects, completed port energy audits and established branch offices in three countries. IMO report that more than 50 capacity building activities have brought together a total 2,400 delegates from various parts of the maritime sector.