A pilot study of passenger vessel casualties

A pilot study of passenger vessel casualties



Movement of people is poised to be the next big thing in shipping. At the same time, almost 2,000 deaths are believed to occur annually as a result of passenger vessel accidents. A sample of 78 marine safety investigation reports for the period 2010-2021 drawn from the IMO’s marine casualty investigation database were found to have resulted in 319 fatalities and 19 injuries besides total loss of five vessels and material damage to 61 other vessels.

Therefore, this study attempted to look into passenger ship accidents as a whole to identify commonalities and contributing factors that may not be immediately apparent when looking at accidents individually. A particular focus of the study was the human element. IMO Circular MSC-MEPC.3/Circ.4/Rev.1 formed the basis for the taxonomy applied in this study.

The key findings of the study suggest the following: (a) not all human error belongs onboard given that the attribution of human erroneous actions in the analysed sample of passenger ship accidents was around 37% with the remainder attributed to the human element in organisational and management contributing factors, and external agencies; (b) safety off-duty matters equally given that as many as 20-45% of the errors in occupational accidents were linked to the onboard safety culture beyond the seafarers’ watch hours; (c) voyage planning needs preparing given that inadequate attention to safety management contributed nearly 30% in the occurrence pattern of groundings; (d) shore personnel attending to cargo operations and maintenance onboard need crew in attendance given that shore personnel would be unfamiliar with the ship and its work environment, and likely to suffer occupational accidents if left unattended during routine activities, or even during conduct of drills onboard; and (e) survival craft hook needs a relook given the continuing occupational accidents involving the inadvertent release of survival craft during recovery of craft from water.

Publication Date



World Maritime University




maritime transport; transport safety; maritime safety; casualty investigation

A pilot study of passenger vessel casualties