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Why are container ships so dangerous?

Container ships transport roughly 90% of the world’s goods. Thousands of them sail the seas every day. They provide work for hundreds of thousands of sailors and crew. And they claim the lives of thousands.

According to some estimates, roughly 2,000 seafarers die every year. But why should these people lose their lives? Humans have been traversing the seas for thousands of years. We’ve made countless technological advances. Yet the ocean remains the world’s deadliest workplace.

The leading causes of container ship fatalities

As The Guardian noted when it looked into the often-underreported issue of shipping deaths, Western media rarely cover shipping accidents because the crew for commercial ships hail mainly from poorer, Eastern countries.

This means that people looking for answers need to dig deeper to find them. You might look at the data supplied by the insurer Allianz, which publishes an annual Safety and Shipping Review. They report that the leading causes of commercial shipping deaths involve:

  • Machinery damage or failures
  • Collisions
  • Groundings
  • Fires and explosions

Notably, the deaths lumped into the “other” category outnumbered all the other categories except for machinery damage and failure. It’s also notable that nearly all these deaths appear preventable.

These numbers don’t reflect deaths caused by sudden squalls or acts of piracy. They suggest deaths that owe to unseaworthy vessels, poor training and poor maintenance. They reflect a world in which companies hire as few crew members as possible to sail a massive vessel, and those crew suffer accidents as a result of their fatigue.

Ship owners have a responsibility to their crew

The ocean is a dangerous workplace, and the world’s ship owners know this. They buy insurance to protect their interests, but they need to protect you, as well. They need to ensure their vessels are seaworthy. They need to train their crew. And they need to follow all the rules and regulations that govern their industry. They shouldn’t shortcut your safety.

Commercial shipping remains a high-risk industry. But the good news is that when employers take reasonable steps to protect their employees, fewer ships face incidents. Fewer sailors die. As the most recent Allianz report revealed, 2018 saw roughly half as many losses as the year before. There’s no good reason for sailors to suffer or die.

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