TT Talk - Focus on waterfront lost-time injuries

What is a reasonable target for the shared industrial workspace at the ship-port interface?

Insurance principles can possibly be boiled down to the very simple statement that an individual or entity should only insure what they cannot afford to lose. The reality is, of course, far more complex and - certainly in corporate lines - requires detailed consideration to understand the risks that are faced and the potential impact to operations or stakeholder value in different loss scenarios, taking account of loss frequency and severity.

Consider the 'economic' impact of incidents

However, while different insurances can undoubtedly be expected to soften the impact of a given loss, any management should not lose sight of the overall economic loss that may be incurred through an incident. Put simply, insurances will never reinstate everything - and that is nothing to do with self-retentions or limits, or even cover exclusions. There are different analyses into the differential between 'insured' and 'uninsured'/'economic' losses; one of the more extreme is a study by the UK HSE's Accident Prevention Advisory Unit (now the Operations Unit) in the early 1990's that suggested that for every unit of value recoverable under insurance an entity could incur anything between eight and 36 times in uninsured financial costs.

Whatever differential may be chosen, there is no doubt that any entity will incur a plethora of additional indirect or hidden costs arising from any incident. At its most basic, this will include the diversion of management attention and effort from the furtherance of primary business objectives. Additionally, there are many scenarios that give risk to an adverse reputational risk, whether with customers or other counterparties, or amongst the workforce and more immediate communities. And it is the human impact, rather than financial, that is most worrisome.

TT Club carries out analysis into incident causation on an annual basis looking at the previous five years. While it is striking that there is consistency in the key areas of causation in each analysis, the sad reality is that injuries are part of the consequence in approaching one third of claims by value. Financial compensation is, however, hardly a satisfactory measure in lost-time injuries. Thus, concentration on reducing the likelihood of collisions, particularly in the port area, addressing the causes of fires and promoting improved cargo packing are vital for the protection of life and limb.

Target zero lost-time injuries

Despite the current uneven and unpredictable trade patterns globally, ports inevitably aspire to be busy 'industrial' zones. The advent of the container half a century ago and the gradual increase in mechanisation of almost all aspects of cargo handling have certainly reduced the number of people exposed to danger on the berth and within the harbour area. Alongside this, most jurisdictions have over the same period addressed many health and safety issues - but much remains to be done, often starting with individual and corporate culture/behaviour. Statistics evidence progress in reducing lost-time injuries in shipping and port operations, but the challenge given at the ICHCA Ship-Port Interface seminar by Richard Steele of UK's

Ports Skills & Safety

to work to get off what appears to be a plateau, the stubborn rump of continuing incidents. It is perhaps high time that the entire industry, collaboratively, makes zero lost-time injuries its key target.

The number of 'moving parts' in ship-port operations is significant and this necessitates careful, innovative consideration if there is to be any quantum change in the lost-time injury profile of the industry. Take, for example, the ship berthing process, involving the interaction (perhaps best spelt 'communication') between harbour master, ship's master, pilot, berthing manager, terminal manager and usually tug masters. Whilst such activity is progressing, crew will often be deployed to start disengaging lashings, while others (both ship and shore personnel) will look to handle mooring lines. Diverse decision-making and diverse activities, resulting in much potential for injury. The reality is that, despite breathtaking changes in size dynamics, the essential berthing operation has remained the same for countless generations. Given the frequency of lines parting (and consequent injuries), fundamental rethinking could be valuable, as profiled at the ICHCA seminar by


"this necessitates careful, innovative consideration if there is to be any quantum change in the lost-time injury profile of the industry"

Another example, in container operations, that gives rise to common injuries, is that of stack collisions. These can occur both on board and in the yard. While operational procedures will be of assistance, technical solutions - of varied complexity - can easily be deployed. These incidents are exacerbated in many ports by the increased volume of transfers per ship call, resulting in yard congestion in the days leading to the ship arrival, increased movements during the call, and management of the hinterland distribution after the ship departs. Of course, sound technologies need to be thoroughly communicated to and understood by the workforce in order to preclude any 'overriding' behaviours.

The operational examples could go on. Increases in ship size and cargo handling peaks have highlighted - and potentially increased - risks and inefficiencies at the ship-port interface. There remain many personnel involved, for example in container lashing and twistlock handling, working at height activities on board and at the berth. The 'human element' is critical to all aspects and too often proves to be flawed. The time is here for shipping lines, ports and terminal operators to collaborate in improving the safety, efficiency and productivity of all ship and cargo handling operations.

We hope that you have found the above interesting. If you would like further information, or have any comments, please email us, or take this opportunity to forward to any colleagues who you may feel would be interested.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Peregrine Storrs-Fox

Risk Management Director, TT Club

Staff Author

TT Club