THE NUMBER of distress calls from ships remains high despite a decline in vessel losses, according to The Future of Maritime Safety Report 2023.

The Inmarsat Maritime report analysed global maritime distress and safety system information, registering 853 distress calls over the 2022 calendar year, up from 794 in 2021.

Inmarsat said the number of losses of vessels over 100 gross tonnage (GT) has fallen by 65% in the last decade, and that figures for marine casualties and incidents reported remain “stubbornly high”.

Over the last four years, distress signals registered over Inmarsat RescueNET averaged 810 per year.

According to Inmarsat, data from Lloyd’s List Intelligence suggests the most common causes of casualties in 2022 were recurring issues including machinery damage, collision, fire and explosion, and grounding.

“As data in this report shows, we see the same safety incidents repeated time and again, year after year,” Inmarsat Maritime senior vice president safety and regulatory Peter Broadhurst said.

“While the rapid changes ahead pose challenges, they also afford us a great opportunity: to not simply try to maintain levels of safety, but to improve them.

“Learning from trends revealed in the oceans of data we have access to is essential.”

Inmarsat said The Future of Maritime Safety identified “deficiencies” in industry attitudes and approaches towards safety, including an “inadequate top-down safety culture”, siloed data that is seldom shared, over-emphasis on human error, poor conditions for seafarers and the perception of safety as a tick-box exercise.

The report called for “co-operation and collaboration built on solid data and the collective desire to manage risk at the lowest practicable level” to improve standards and reduce the human, environmental and financial impact of marine casualties.

It proposed the proactive use of safety data and reports to tackle the root causes of repeated and well-known issues and the creation of a standard international marine casualty and incident dataset.

The report also recommended anonymising incident and casualty data to “overcome prevailing unwillingness to share data due to commercial sensitivities” and reach a consensus on standard data points to monitor.

“We have the data but need to find ways to harmonise its collation and employment to tackle safety deficiencies head-on,” Mr Broadhurst said.

“Let’s change the narrative from a culture of commercial and personal secrecy out of fear of competition and punitive measures to one of transparency and acceptance of safety-related change.

“In this way, we can better protect seafarers, vessels and the environment and ensure that safety keeps pace with other aspects of a sustainable transition that is steering shipping towards a new dawn.”

The Future of Maritime Safety Report compared datasets (based on methodology from data analysts at supply chain consultancy SeaFocus) across 12 vessel types and multiple years to establish trends.

Inmarsat said the commentary includes insights from three Inmarsat roundtable meetings, which considered technology, regulation and the human element respectively.