Maritime Disaster Prevention

The sinking of the RMS Titanic occurred on the night of 14 April, 1912, in the North Atlantic Ocean, during her first voyage from Southampton to New York City. The Titanic had an estimated 2,224 people on board when she struck an iceberg at around 23:40 p.m. Sunday, 14 April, 1912. Her sinking only took two hours and 40 minutes, which was one of the most rapid sinking speeds of a passenger ship at that time. And finally at around 02:20 a.m., 15 April, the sea swallowed one of the strongest and biggest man-made objects. Also, this resulted in the death of more than 1,500 people, which made it one of the deadliest peacetime maritime disasters in history.

The whole world over was in great shock. And soon, the movement for an international treaty occurred in order to ensure the safe voyages and safety of ships themselves. So finally in 1914, SOLAS (the Safety of Life at Sea) was legitimized and is still in force today. Also, SOLAS itself is the father to numerous maritime safety regulations.

SOLAS requires to be flagged by states in order to ensure that such ships comply with the minimum safety standards in construction, equipment and operation. Currently, SOLAS has 162 contracting states, which hold oversee than 99 percent of vessels around the globe. After the activation of SOLAS, the number of maritime incidents and accidents decreased to some extent. In relation to this, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) is continuously enacting regulations and treaties for the sake of prevention of maritime disasters.

What is the similarity of these regulations and treaties? Surprisingly, all of them are motivated by maritime incidents and accidents. Actually, the IMO investigates all kinds of maritime incidents and accidents from huge disasters like the Titanic, to minor incidents just to ensure a safe voyage.

Just like this, the main purpose of a survey of maritime accidents is to prevent similar disasters, not to punish an interested party. The same policy must be applied to the MV Sewol. After the Sewol disaster, we must concentrate on how to prevent this kind of disaster. But sadly, in our society, we totally fail to learn from our errors and take necessary counter-measures. Instead of this, we just blame and criticize each other and punish the related parties without any consideration of the flaws that enabled these tragedies that lie in wait. If you speculate on all of the related policies after the disaster, you are sure to have doubts about their effectiveness. Counter-active measures are the key to prevention.

Finally, the government successfully salvaged the MV Sewol. It is not common in maritime accident history to salvage a civilian ship which has no military affiliation. So, it is an opportunity which rarely comes up. In relation to this, we must prevent similar disasters through a thorough investigation and cause identification without wasting time. We neither have the time nor money for criticism. We cannot repeat the same mistake which took place three years ago. Identifying the cause of the accident and building a recurrence prevention system will be the only way to become a “not-sorry adult” to youngsters.

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