In 2018, 188 seafarers around the globe died on the job, according to Anuj Chopra, vice president of the Americas for RightShip, a maritime risk management and environmental assessment organization.
“I don’t know if there’s any other business in this world that accepts that [number] of fatalities and says it’s business as usual,” Chopra said earlier this month at the WISTA International Annual General Meeting & Conference.
Chopra, a former ship captain, told the Women’s International Shipping & Trading Association conference attendees in the Cayman Islands that about a decade ago, 55% of maritime accidents happened at sea and 45% occurred in the last mile as ships approached port.
“Today, 70% of accidents happen in the last mile,” he said, pointing out that RightShip determined that 29% of those incidents were related to mooring issues.
“We’ve lost 40 seafarers in the last nine weeks,” Chopra said. “I think it’s important for us to realize we need to gear up to make sure this doesn’t happen. We have to get these seafarers back home.”
While Chopra did not specifically mention autonomous vessels, he did advocate for keeping decision-making in the hands of humans on board.
“We have standardized the industry so much by removing the decision-making from ship to shore. Ship staff is not empowered to make decisions. We need to change that. We need to … empower our seafarers to make decisions on board,” Chopra said. “We can’t vicariously run the ship from shore.”
He also advocates the use of data. RightShip says on its website, “With our predictive online ship vetting platform, RightShip Qi, coupled with the maritime expertise of our vetting team, we help our customers manage marine risk by identifying and eliminating substandard ships from their supply chain, while improving overall maritime safety standards in the industry.”
“Everybody talks about big data today,” Chopra said. “We use some analytics, predictive AI to make some sense out of it.”
Chopra said RightShip also uses data to call out “bad actors” in the maritime industry.
RightShip, which also monitors climate change, has offices in London, Melbourne, Australia, and Houston, where Chopra lives and has seen what he called historic 100-year, 800-year and 1,200-year floods.
“Natural disasters are increasing, whether we accept it or not,” he said.
Chopra serves on the board of the North American Marine Environment Protection Association, and he said RightShip is dedicated to helping the maritime industry reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“If you don’t measure [your carbon footprint], how will you manage it?” he asked.
Companies also need to manage diversity within their organizations, he told WISTA members.
“The consumers of shipping today … are not willing to accept lack of gender diversity or any sort of discrimination,” Chopra said. “If your service provider does not have a KPI on gender diversity, you’ve got a [choice] to make.”