What Causes a Ship Disaster?

Video highlights from Salvage Code Red

Wild winds, ferocious fires or clumsy captains, the causes of modern-day shipping disasters are numerous.

Wild winds, ferocious fires or clumsy captains? The causes of modern-day shipping disasters are numerous. We take a look at what causes some of the major shipping disasters reported every year

Despite being packed with state-of-the-art navigation systems and built to ever-increasing specifications to withstand all that the world’s oceans can throw at them, there are still many major shipping disasters reported every year – good news for the marine salvage companies featured in Salvage Code Red, less so for ship owners.

But what causes these shipping disasters? Whether wild winds, ferocious fires, clumsy captains or sinking ships, the causes of modern-day shipping disasters are numerous.

Bad Weather

While the casualty toll of modern-day commercial shipping as a result of bad weather may not be as alarming as it was in the days of sail ships, weather conditions still account for numerous shipping accidents every year.

High winds on the ocean can cause severe problems for commercial shipping, pushing the ships into shallower waters where the possibility of grounding is significantly increased. The grounding of the Zhen Hua 10, which was carrying five massive gantry cranes and grounded in high winds just outside Rotterdam in February 2008, is a good example of how heavy wind can wreak havoc with ships.

Captain Error

Captain error often goes hand-in-hand with bad weather, where high winds and crushing waves can push ships off course into shallower waters. These terrible conditions usually make ship movement more difficult and one wrong turn by a captain can spell disaster. But sometimes, bad weather has nothing to do with shipping accidents at all, and the blame can be pinned on the captain of the ship alone. One of the most famous cases of captain error was the 1967 Torrey Canyon shipping disaster, in which the captain of the supertanker, en route to Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire, West Wales, decided to take a ‘short cut’ to disastrous effect.

Collision with another Ship

In busy harbours and shipping lanes the world over, the risk of crashing into another vessel remains high.

Numerous ships have come undone in these cramped shipping areas, where ship captains have to be ever-vigilant.

But accidents can easily happen, with devastating effects, as the Panamanian scrap metal ship, the New Flame, discovered in August 2007. After colliding with a petrol tanker just off the coast of Gibraltar, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, the New Flame partially sunk and salvage teams had to be called in.

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