Maritime Passive Safety’s actions gain support from International Salvage Union
The marine salvage industry is the key to preventing damage to the marine environment. This industry is the first line of defense against catastrophic pollution. Mike Lacey, Secretary General of the International Salvage Union, shared with us his views about maritime safety and the future of salvage in particular:
Shipping has changed a lot in the recent years: giant ships, new designs, traffic growth, tougher regulations. How does it impact the work of salvors?
Notwithstanding the many changes that have, and continue, to take place in shipping, the role of the marine salvor will remain one of providing assistance to shipping whenever and wherever an incident arises, with the salvors using their best endeavours to salve the ship and its cargo, and whilst carrying out such services also using their best endeavours to prevent or minimize damage to the environment.
Ships are becoming larger and more complex, particularly in the case of container ships, bulk carriers, cruise liners and ferries, so sometimes you wonder if the maximum size has been reached. Probably not. There is no doubt that the growth in size of some vessels will present serious challenges to the salvage industry, but it is an industry that prides itself in facing up to challenges, and I have no doubt that it will continue to respond effectively in the future.
There are more regulations as each year goes by, but that again is something the salvor understands. It is an industry that is used to working closely with shipowners, cargo shippers, insurers and local and national authorities, because at the end of the day there have to be common aims when a shipping casualty occurs, and obviously they are to save life and property, and to avoid environmental damage.
In case an accident happens, why is it essential to keep the pollutant in the ship?
For many years the ISU message has been to ‘keep the pollutant in the ship’. Very easy to say, but not always easy to achieve. It is common sense that if the pollutant(s) can be contained within the vessel then they are not causing environmental damage. Unfortunately today, when a casualty occurs in coastal waters there is a strong and consistent requirement on the part of local authorities that the bunkers be removed, before any salvage operations are undertaken, even when there is no risk of them escaping.
Equally there are cases where the authorities deny a casualty a place of refuge. It is understandable that authorities are concerned about pollution risks, but ISU has long argued that no ship should be denied a place of refuge without a proper inspection by competent surveyors. Ordering a ship away does not solve the problem it simply changes the geographic location of the problem, and very often that will expose the ship, its crew, and the salvors to far greater risks. It also runs the real risk of making any ship to ship transfer operation so much more difficult and hazardous in an exposed location.
How do you foresee regulations in the field of environmental pollution prevention in the coming years?
Concern for the environment will continue to grow as the years go by. The regulations will increase in terms of scope, and in terms of consequences. Statistically shipping casualties are not a major source of pollution, but the problem is that when they occur you tend to get large amounts of fuel or cargo oil spilled at one time, and it is very newsworthy. ISU has kept records of tonnes of potential pollutants salved since 1994. Not every casualty was going to result in a spill of pollutants, but on average just over 1 million tonnes of pollutants have been the subject of salvage services each year. If the salvage industry only prevented 10% of that figure from spilling into the sea, that is a huge contribution.
Whatever need governments see for further regulation in the future, the marine salvage industry will do its best to work within such requirements, but all those concerned, be they governments, shipowners, cargo interests or environmentalists, have to understand that the salvage industry works in very difficult and demanding situations. Very often in exposed locations, in bad weather, with damaged ships, and real risks to the personnel involved.
ISU is very concerned about the tendency nowadays to criminalize shipping incidents, even in accidental situations. Such an approach may cause a salvor to delay involvement with a casualty, when time lost might have severe consequences.
What is your stance on opportunity for ships to be equipped/designed in order to prevent leakages and facilitate oil recovery in case an accident happens?
ISU has long been a strong supporter of the installation of equipment, and built in design features, which will assist in salvage operations on a vessel. This began many years ago when ISU embarked upon a programme to encourage shipowners to build in, or retro fit, strong towing connections on the bow and at the stern of vessels. Since those days there have been many developments and features which, if installed, will undoubtedly contribute to the successful salvage of a vessel. Such equipment can make the vessel ‘salvage friendly’, and ISU strongly supports the work being undertaken by the Maritime Passive Safety Association in this regard.
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