OPINION: 2017 ferry fatality toll increases by 57 per cent over 2016

After a very encouraging year in 2016 when the number of fatalities arising from ferry accidents fell to its lowest level ever at 473 “known” deaths, the numbers in 2017 have unfortunately increased significantly.

In 2017 the number of “known” ferry fatalities rose by 57 per cent to 742 from the 2016 figure. It must be stressed, however, that this data from the Baird Maritime Passenger Vessel Accident database includes only “known” accidents and fatalities. The “real” figures are estimated to be at least 50 per cent higher at about 710 in 2016 and 1,113 in 2017.

The 2016 numbers arose from 29 fatal ferry accidents in 18 countries. In 2017 there were 21 fatal ferry accidents in 12 countries so the death tolls per accident were considerably worse. The most dangerous countries remained, as usual, essentially the same. The Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Myanmar and Brazil all experienced at least two fatal accidents in 2017.

This “backsliding” is very disappointing. It is especially so when compared with the global aviation industry. Based on much more accurate and comprehensive data, there were no fatal accidents in 2017 involving commercial passenger jet aircraft. That makes 2017 the best year yet for commercial air travel according to the Aviation Safety Network.

Many simple and economical solutions are available to enable a substantial reduction in the annual international ferry fatality toll. The problem lies in encouraging the International Maritime Organisation to develop the will to encourage and support the national governments involved to implement them. The international ferry industry has much to learn from civil aviation. IMO could learn a lot if it were to study its civil aviation counterpart, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

Neil Baird

Co-founder and former Editor-in-Chief of Baird Maritime and Work Boat World magazine, Neil has travelled the length and breadth of this planet in over 40 years in the business. He knows the global work boat industry better than anyone.