Some of the world’s most iconic oceans are also the most at risk according to a new study on shipping accidents released by WWF. It presents consolidated evidence of factors that have contributed to, or been associated with, shipping accidents over the last 15 years.

Southeast Asia – particularly the Coral Triangle – the east Mediterranean and Black Sea, North Sea and British Isles are the highest risk areas for accidents at sea.

Environmental risk is directly linked to the type and amount of hazardous substances, including oil, being transported and the sensitivity of the marine area where any accident could occur.

In 2002, the Prestige oil tanker sunk resulting in over 70,000 tonnes of oil being released into the Atlantic Ocean off the Spanish coast.

“The Prestige oil spill caused not only environmental impacts but economic losses estimated at €8 billion. Even small scale accidents in very sensitive environments, like the Great Barrier Reef, can have profound environmental consequences.” said Dr Walmsley.

Climate change models show increased storm surges, changing wind and wave patterns and extreme weather events which are likely to exacerbate the risks of foundering leading to potential catastrophic environmental destruction. Fifty per cent of all accidents are caused by foundering, where a boat sinks due to rough weather, leaks or breaking in two.

As the global fleet continues to expand rapidly and begins to operate routinely in more risky areas the probability of accidents and likely severity of impacts will again increase unless precautionary measures are put in place to address identifiable risk factors.

“We really want to see the shipping industry promote greater owner and operator responsibility and encourage owners to register with better flag states, the country which a vessel is registered to.”

“Additionally, irresponsible and badly performing owners and countries need to be exposed in order to motivate them to significantly increase their standards which will decrease the number of accidents we see still occurring today” said Dr Walmsley.

Further Reading:
Accidents at Sea Report Summary