Quantifying Arctic Shipping Risks

cruise ship in Greenland

Published May 21, 2015 6:38 PM by Wendy Laursen

A study published by a Danish researcher has put a number on the risks faced by shipping in Greenland’s waters. The estimated probability that a ship, crew or cargo will be exposed to a dangerous situation is 3.533 percent and the estimated probability for a critical situation such as a capsize is 2.232 percent.

The models developed show the correlation between different hazards a ship, crew and cargo could be exposed. The likelihood of each hazard has been evaluated on its own and in different scenarios with other hazards with the aim of providing greater insight into how dangerous situations develop.

“It is my hope that the model can be a tool in predicting and preventing incidents that can be a threat to the environment and anyone working in the maritime industry,” says the researcher Pernille Gemynthe of the Technical University of Denmark. “The model can be used when establishing the standards for the Polar Code, as the model gives an insight from a sailors’ perspective. The insurance industry can hopefully use it to initiate the necessary changes to the ships, in order to increase their safety.”

Gemynthe believes the analysis has relevance to Arctic shipping and also shipping globally. She has drawn from her own experience to some extent. “I am a former navigator who has upgraded my education in order to also gain perspectives from shipbuilders and legislators. I have tried to combine both worlds in order to get the best overall estimates for the model. I believe that many previous attempts at making legislation, regulations and different standards have often been made by people that only have the point of view from one of those worlds, typically not the one from the ships. By combining both I believe that it gives a better understanding of how the real world is.” 

The combined analysis is achieved by analysing quantitative and qualitative data. A risk analysis was undertaken which described the different situations in-depth, explaining the individual situations and the links between them in order to get an overview of the possibility for the numerous combinations that could occur. The qualitative data was gathered from interviews carried out with current and former sailors who have experience sailing in the waters of Greenland.

Some of the risks included in the model analysis are:

Risk                                                     Likelihood (percent)

Damage to hull                                    5.199

Collision with ice                                6.184

Collision with ship                              0.602

Traffic                                                 20.652

Bad weather                                        10.634

Grounding                                           2.519

Beset in ice                                          6.669

Breakdown                                         4.365

Sinking or capsizing                            1.761

Bad seamanship                                  3.374

Inadequate route plan                          2.406


The study is available here.