Accidental pollutions: a Shift in Oil Spills’ PreventionThe maritime passive safety sector is a market that is rapidly developing in response to governments across the globe tightening the ecological requirements of shipping legislation. The aim is to encourage the shipping industry to prepare, well in advance, for a better handling of the environmental consequences of accidents and incidents at sea. This represents a significant new mindset, breaking away from the unrealistic concept of zero risk.
A New Mindset
Over the last few years, investment in the field of maritime safety has focused on technologies that help prevent accidents occurring in the first place. Examples of such ‘active safety equipment’ include radar, embedded computing systems and smart automatic piloting systems. All these technological offerings have the same objective – reducing the number of accidents and incidents at sea.
However, even if they are a must-have, such active safety systems have their limitations, as evidenced by environmental disasters such as the Exxon Valdez or the Prestige.
One of the main conclusions to be drawn from these incidents is that the concept of zero risk does not exist. Despite this, much of the shipping sector has yet to really develop a culture of crisis preparedness, rarely having a comprehensive environmental management plan in place to handle an accident at sea. Indeed, when a ship is damaged, it is nearly always left helplessly passive and totally dependent on coastal salvage operations. The subsequent delays in response can lead to unnecessary environmental pollution.
In the light of the growing fragility of marine and littoral ecosystems, it is now crucial that ships provide the marine environment with maximum protection in the case of an accident. With this in mind, the maritime passive safety sector aims to enable all parties to react more quickly and efficiently when an accident occurs, equipping vessels with systems that, being permanently installed onboard, can significantly reduce the environmental consequences of such accidents.
This new outlook on managing environmental risk at sea is winning over a growing number of shipping operators, who all agree that, given the race to develop ever larger vessels and the 40% increase in the shipping of hazardous materials over the past decade, environmental safety at sea should become a top priority consideration.
A Growing European Green Business
The first research and development (R&D) work in the area of maritime passive safety was conducted some 10 years ago in Europe, leading to the development of a range of mature, efficient and certified technologies by several companies from Denmark, France and Norway. Many more innovations are expected to follow as an increasing number of manufacturers enter this fast growing market sector.
The main objective of the maritime passive safety sector is to equip new build vessels and to retrofit existing ships with permanent onboard systems/new design that can be deployed as soon as an accident has occurred and the ship is in danger (wreck, grounding etc). The aim is first to contain the pollutants in the tanks in order to prevent any leakage and then to easily and quickly remove them before the spill occurs.
Passive safety in the car industry: an inspiring example
In the 1980’s, car manufacturers supported by public authorities, developed the first passive safety features for cars. Seatbelts, airbags, head restraints or side-impact bars have played a major part in the reducing of road casualties. The development of passive safety features has participated in developing new, more responsible mentalities and behavior within the car industry and car drivers. Today the car passive safety industry is a successful business which weighs about 3 billion Euros in Europe and 18 billion Dollars in the world.
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