Vol 75, No 2 (2024)
Original article
Published online: 2024-06-28

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Maritime accidents in the estuary of the River Seine from 2009–2019

Jean-Claude Chatard1, Michel Quioc2
DOI: 10.5603/imh.99407
Pubmed: 38949220
IMH 2024;75(2):79-88.


Background: In confined waters, ships run a high risk of groundings, contact, sinkings and near misses. In
such waters the maritime traffic is dense, the waterway is narrow, the depth is limited, and tides and currents
are constantly changing.

Materials and methods: From 2009–2019, 75 accidents were investigated in the estuary of the Seine. Weather conditions and perceived fatigue were studied. From May to June 2020, 114 seafarers, 34 pilots and 80 captains, responded to a questionnaire focusing on the use of Pilot Portable Units (PPU) and Electronic Chart Display Information Systems (ECDIS).

Results: The 75 accidents corresponded to an average of 6.8 ± 3.2 accidents per year. Groundings were the most frequent accidents (35%, n = 26) followed by contact accidents with the quayside (25%, n = 19), between ships or tugs while manoeuvring (8%, n = 6) or while sailing (1%, n = 1). There was no loss of vessels nor fatalities of crew members. In poor weather conditions, there were 76% more accidents than in normal conditions (4.4 ± 2.5 accidents/10,000 movements versus 2.5 ± 1.9 accidents/10,000 movements, p < 0.03). Almost all the accidents (96%) were related to human errors of judgment (81%), or negligence (53%), or both (39). Perceived fatigue was probably in cause in 6 accidents. Only 3 accidents were related to mechanical causes. Through the questionnaires, 69% of the pilots complained of difficulties in mastering the devices and software. They felt distracted by alarms which affected their attention while navigating. They requested training on a simulator. Concerning ship captains, 83% felt comfortable with ECDIS devices yet only 20% were able to configure the ECDIS correctly.

Conclusions: In the Seine estuary, 75 accidents occurred within the 11 year-study. Risk factors were poor weather conditions and human error. PPU and ECDIS were considered as useful tools in the prevention of accidents. However, pilots and captains requested more thorough training in their use.

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