Offshore Tanker Collisions
Tanker collisions are some of the most dangerous accidents that occur at sea, frequently leading to devastating injuries and fatalities. While tankers sometimes collide with each other, they can also strike fixed structures such as bridges or offshore drilling platforms. Collisions and groundings account for 58 percent of oil tanker spills.
Tanker Collision Causes
Some of the most common factors in tanker collisions include:
- Human error. Most tanker collisions occur due to human error. Insufficient manning can result in crew member fatigue, which in turn may lead to mistakes that cause accidents. If a seaman fails to properly evaluate the information provided by electronic navigational aids, his lack of awareness of the tanker’s true position can cause a collision.
- Weather. After human error, severe weather conditions are the most common cause of tanker collisions. Visibility may be limited due to fog; ice flows can collide with the vessel; and high winds and violent waves may push the ship off course. While the impact of bad weather isn’t as hazardous as it was in the days of sailing ships, it still accounts for numerous vessel accidents every year.
- Equipment failure. Engine failure results in the loss of a tanker’s maneuvering capabilities, which may lead to a collision. The cause of a malfunctioning propulsion system can often be traced back to a lack of proper maintenance.
- Sea congestion. The number of commercial ships operating worldwide increased dramatically in recent years. As sea lanes become increasingly crowded and vessels travel faster, the threat of tanker collisions continues to grow.
- Infrastructure issues. If a piece of land-based infrastructure isn’t in the proper position, such as a drawbridge descending prematurely, a collision may occur. These types of accidents are thankfully rare, but still happen.