Improving marine safety

January 20, 1995

Reducing high levels of deaths and injuries at sea is the aim of a Pounds 1.5 million maritime safety research centre being established at Cardiff University's department of maritime studies.

An estimated 10,000 deaths and 500,000 injuries occur at sea each year, and up to 80 per cent of them are attributed to human error.

Now the Seafarers Trust -- the charity arm of the International Transport Workers Federation -- has decided to finance the centre in Cardiff partly because its three professors are qualified master mariners. They have spent up to ten years at sea and know about shipboard problems.

In addition, the department has a high international profile. It recruits its 300 students from 31 countries, and actively participates in international research projects, such as last year's location of the wreck of the MV Derbyshire.

Alistair Couper, a professor in the department, said that seafaring is one of the world's most dangerous industries.

"Sailors are vulnerable to health problems such as cardiovascular disease, and suffer more accidents and injuries than most other workers," he said. "Many of the problems may be due to the shipboard environment. Reductions in crew numbers can lead to sailors suffering loneliness and stress on long voyages. And fatigue can be a problem on short voyages."

Discovering why accidents occur -- and how many -- will be one of the new centre's priorities.

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