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Safety first as Interferry heads for Philippines

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IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim

IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim

IMO secretary-general Kitack Lim is to make the keynote opening address when trade association Interferry stages its 41st annual conference in Manila this October – marking a decade of cooperation between the two organisations to help improve domestic ferry safety in developing nations.  

Safety issues will launch a typically varied agenda.  Other topics range from technical innovations – including vessel design, propulsion systems, alternative fuels, automated mooring and anti-fouling coatings – to ticketing IT, urban waterways, legal insights and an insurer’s perspective on risk assessment.

Only three Interferry conferences have been held outside Europe and the Americas since the event was last held in the Philippines in 1999.  This year’s venue was inspired by key statistics on membership and casualties, as explained by Darrell Bryan, who is acting as Interferry CEO pending a permanent successor to recently-retired Len Roueche.

“The global ferry industry carries more than two billion passengers per year and close to half of these are in SE Asia,” says Bryan, the former president and CEO of Seattle-based fast ferry operator Victoria Clipper.  “In contrast, only 22% of our members are from Asia, the Pacific and Africa, so we are determined to recruit in these regions – not least to extend our safety initiative in the developing world, where the vast majority of serious ferry incidents take place.  Our invitation to Kitack Lim aims to boost  both these objectives by allowing a lot of potential members to hear and meet him close to home.”

The event’s host company is Archipelago Philippine Ferries, whose founder Chet Pastrana is the current Interferry president.  At the 2010 conference in New York, his impassioned speech on safety challenges prompted immediate offers of assistance from the association.  Six years on, during a dedicated Asia Pacific session, he will describe how his pioneering FastCat operation has enhanced safety and service levels with the first ferry fleet to be purpose-built for the Philippines – designed by Australian Interferry member Sea Transport Solutions.

A global line-up of speakers will analyse the reasons and remedies for life-threatening incidents.  Joining regional authorities from Indonesia and Bangladesh, Capt. Nurur Rahman, Papua New Guinea’s maritime safety operations manager, will examine why 95% of ferry fatalities occur in developing countries.  Citing sub-standard vessels, lack or sluggish enforcement of rules, inadequate training, overloading and poor weather forecasting, he warns: “Developing economies do not have the financial capacity that is absolutely necessary to address the challenges of minimising fatalities at sea.”

Confirming the impact of such factors, more than 2,000 deaths a year result from passenger vessel – mostly ferry – accidents according to Neil Baird, the leading Australian maritime publisher and chairman of corporate responsibility alliance the World Ocean Council.  He will present his research into every known casualty over the past 50 years, which shows that more than 90% of the accidents and deaths are directly attributable to human error.  “The causes are overwhelmingly behavioural and cultural rather than structural or mechanical and should be preventable,” he stresses.  “My proposed improvements in passenger vessel design, construction, outfitting, regulation and operation should not be prohibitively costly and should lead to significant reductions in the number of accidents and the arising death toll.”

Naval architects from Finland’s Deltamarin will explain their DeltaSafer concept for safe and affordable ferries tailor-made for Far East markets.  Construction costs are minimised by using standard hull thicknesses and profiles, simple connection details and modular public spaces fitted to local expectations – supported by keen sourcing to reduce machinery costs.  Safety measures include high damage stability through a combination of hull dimensions and enhanced subdivision, simplified passenger space layouts to aid evacuation and a redundant propulsion system to help tackle extreme weather situations.

Michael Niemann, fleet manager at Australia’s SeaLink Travel Group, will outline a best practice strategy for domestic ferries based on universal uniformity of standards.  “Countries such as the USA, UK and Australia administer their own domestic ferry regulations that are similar in intent but still lack global acceptance and standardisation,” he complains.  “Globally accepted standards would not only benefit the developed world but would also provide sound guidance for emerging nations in reducing the risk of incidents.  We should agree on the outcomes while  recognising the economic aspects of making them practical and effective.”

Guidance on improving the human factor in safety will be provided by Murray Goldberg, founder and CEO of world-leading specialist Marine Learning Systems, who will review the SailSafe joint management and union scheme in place at BC Ferries in Canada since 2007.  In a key element of the initiative, a novel Standardized Education and Assessment (SEA) program was created to blend  eLearning with face-to-face training.  As Mr Goldberg notes: “It is not coincidental that accidents have dropped by close to 60%, injuries and days lost due to injury have dropped by the same amount, and insurance claims costs have plummeted.”

The Interferry 2016 conference on October 17-18 is the centrepiece of a five-day schedule from October 15 that also includes a string of networking events and concludes with a cruise and technical tour on board a FastCat vessel.  Full details are atwww.interferry.com

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