Shipping Safety (Donaldson Report)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:04 am on 28th June 1995.

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Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland 10:04 am, 28th June 1995

That does not strike one as a contender for the most efficient flag state. Given the emergency nature of the work done by those tugs, one cannot help wondering whether language problems—identified time and time again in incidents—would be wholly overcome in an emergency. That matter is of some concern in the shipping industry. I would be interested to know also whether the language problem will be addressed when assessing such arrangements.

There is so much to say. I have not dealt at length with crewing standards, but human error is responsible for around 80 per cent. of accidents at sea. However, all worthwhile measures cost money. Effective port state control costs money, and the Marine Safety Agency must have the resources to undertake important survey work. The Coastguard Agency must be lifted from the demoralised state indicated by the comments of a number of its employees.

Writing in Petroleum Review last October, Mr. C. J. Parker, secretary of the Nautical Institute, concluded his review of the Donaldson report: Certainly, commercial operations demand a level of risk and whilst this is inevitable in any competitive industry the aim of regulation, enforcement and inspection must be to eradicate the sub-standard and ensure that dangerous shortcuts do not pay. There is continuing concern that, if the shipping industry could get away with dangerous short cuts, it would. It is incumbent on the House to make sure that short cuts are not possible, address the issues with a sense of urgency, and remember that the pollution of our sea and marine environment can have damaging effects on employment onshore as well as on people who make their living plying the seas.

It is important to acknowledge the potential cost of not taking some of the measures that Lord Donaldson proposed. I hope that this debate will be one of several to take stock of measures being put in place to ensure that our seas our cleaner and our ships are safer.