open access

Vol 69, No 2 (2018)
MARITIME MEDICINE Original articles
Published online: 2018-06-22
Submitted: 2018-05-17
Accepted: 2018-05-23
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Causes and circumstances of maritime casualties and crew fatalities in British merchant shipping since 1925

Stephen E. Roberts, Tim Carter
DOI: 10.5603/IMH.2018.0015
·
Pubmed: 29939386
·
International Maritime Health 2018;69(2):99-109.

open access

Vol 69, No 2 (2018)
MARITIME MEDICINE Original articles
Published online: 2018-06-22
Submitted: 2018-05-17
Accepted: 2018-05-23

Abstract

Background: To determine the causes and circumstances of vessel accidents that led to fatalities in British
merchant shipping since 1925, and among British seafarers who were employed in non-United Kingdom
shipping since 1985. Secondly, to establish trends in vessel accidents and crew fatalities, and associations
with type of casualty and location, type of ship, cargo carried and season.
Materials and methods: Reviews of annual mortality returns, marine accident investigation reports, death
inquiry files, Lloyd’s casualty returns, online newspapers, shipwreck websites and other searches over the
period from 1925 to 2017 but excluding 1939 to 1946.


Results: The study identified 362 ship accidents in British shipping that led to 2760 crew and 605 passenger
fatalities. There have been large reductions in both ship casualty and crew fatality rates, which have
been greatest for vessels that were stranded, wrecked or foundered, particularly small coastal trading
cargo ships. Reductions since the 1980s have coincided with proportionate increases in ship accidents
and consequential crew fatalities among British seafarers employed in ‘open register’ shipping. Strong
seasonal and geographical patterns show that most fatalities through foundering or wrecking occurred
during winter months around Europe.


Conclusions: Reductions in ship accidents and crew fatalities reflect major developments and improvements
in ship navigational aids, improvements in rescue services and ship designs, and reductions in the
volume of small coastal trading ships. Some disasters in ‘open registry’ shipping occurred in controversial
circumstances, suggesting that substandard shipping has been flagged out or that lower cost but less
competent crews have been employed.

Abstract

Background: To determine the causes and circumstances of vessel accidents that led to fatalities in British
merchant shipping since 1925, and among British seafarers who were employed in non-United Kingdom
shipping since 1985. Secondly, to establish trends in vessel accidents and crew fatalities, and associations
with type of casualty and location, type of ship, cargo carried and season.
Materials and methods: Reviews of annual mortality returns, marine accident investigation reports, death
inquiry files, Lloyd’s casualty returns, online newspapers, shipwreck websites and other searches over the
period from 1925 to 2017 but excluding 1939 to 1946.


Results: The study identified 362 ship accidents in British shipping that led to 2760 crew and 605 passenger
fatalities. There have been large reductions in both ship casualty and crew fatality rates, which have
been greatest for vessels that were stranded, wrecked or foundered, particularly small coastal trading
cargo ships. Reductions since the 1980s have coincided with proportionate increases in ship accidents
and consequential crew fatalities among British seafarers employed in ‘open register’ shipping. Strong
seasonal and geographical patterns show that most fatalities through foundering or wrecking occurred
during winter months around Europe.


Conclusions: Reductions in ship accidents and crew fatalities reflect major developments and improvements
in ship navigational aids, improvements in rescue services and ship designs, and reductions in the
volume of small coastal trading ships. Some disasters in ‘open registry’ shipping occurred in controversial
circumstances, suggesting that substandard shipping has been flagged out or that lower cost but less
competent crews have been employed.

Get Citation

Keywords

maritime casualties, fatalities, seafarers, British shipping

About this article
Title

Causes and circumstances of maritime casualties and crew fatalities in British merchant shipping since 1925

Journal

International Maritime Health

Issue

Vol 69, No 2 (2018)

Pages

99-109

Published online

2018-06-22

DOI

10.5603/IMH.2018.0015

Pubmed

29939386

Bibliographic record

International Maritime Health 2018;69(2):99-109.

Keywords

maritime casualties
fatalities
seafarers
British shipping

Authors

Stephen E. Roberts
Tim Carter

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