The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) has concluded that human error and poor judgment were the main cause of the three incidents that resulted in oil spills in Singapore workers this year. MPA has conducted investigations into the incidents and also formed a Safety Review Committee (SRC) to review the overall system of navigational safety in Singapore’s port waters and Singapore Strait. Members comprised experts from MPA, Ministry of Transport, the local academia and shipping industry. The findings of the investigations showed there was lack of situational awareness of the bridge teams, including the pilots, although MPA’s Port Operations Control Centre (POCC) had provided advisories and warnings of the traffic situation to the bridge teams. The bridge teams also did not make use of all available means at their disposal, such as the Automatic Identification System (AIS), Automatic Radar Plotting Aid (ARPA), Radar, and Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS) to avoid the collisions. Appropriate disciplinary actions will be taken against the members of the bridge teams, including the pilots, for contravening the relevant regulations. The SRC also reviewed the overall regime of navigational safety in Singapore’s port limits. The SRC found no significant increase in the number of incidents between 2007 and 2013, nor was there apparent correlation in the occurrence of incidents and growth in vessel movements in the Singapore Strait or port waters. The number of incidents over the last few years remained low and averaged about 0.012 and 0.016 per 1,000 vessel movements in the port waters and Singapore Strait respectively. The existing systems and procedures put in place by MPA have helped to keep the incident rates low. Notwithstanding, the SRC recommended adopting the following key measures to further enhance the safety of navigation in the port and in the Singapore Strait:
- Instilling a strong safety culture
- MPA should work with the industry to develop an integrated safety management framework to drive the overall efforts to promote a strong culture of safety awareness, including the conduct of regular safety briefings to the shipping community.
- Enhancing communication and information sharing
PSA Marine should enhance the information sharing between pilots and ship masters, including the timely dissemination of passage plan to the ships. There should also be procedures for its pilots to follow when communications failure occurs between the pilots on converging ships, or between the Vessel Traffic Information System (VTIS) and their ships.
iii. Improving safe passage in high risk areas
MPA’s VTIS should consider providing more active advisories to vessels navigating at high traffic density areas in the port of Singapore and in the Singapore Strait. MPA should also work with the shipping community to ensure ship masters are present on the bridge when their ships are transiting critical areas in the Singapore Strait.
To implement the above measures and ensure efforts are sustained, MPA will form two working groups:
i.The MPA-PSA Marine Safety of Navigation Working Group.
ii.The MPA-SSA (Singapore Shipping Association) Safety of Navigation Working Group.
MPA will also be shortly launching a Safety Campaign with the shipping community to raise the level of awareness on navigational safety. It will also review and improve navigational safety in critical areas such as key fairways and pilot boarding grounds.
MPA Chief Executive, Andrew Tan said, “MPA places a strong emphasis on the safety of navigation and takes a serious view of any incidents in Singapore waters. Moving forward, we will work more closely with all our industry partners to review our safety management procedures and implement additional measures to enhance navigational safety. We will also not hesitate to take appropriate actions against those who infringe our safety regulations.”
Patrick Phoon, chairman of the Safe Navigation and Environment Committee of the Asian Shipowners’ Forum and president of the Singapore Shipping Association (SSA) said, “We welcome the efforts taken by MPA and the Safety Review Committee to look at the causes to these incidents holistically. The SSA will work closely with MPA to implement the recommendations from the Safety Review Committee to enhance navigational safety within our port waters and the Singapore Strait.”