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Introduction to maritime damages

Niko Fierens was invited at the Campus Ghent of the Faculty Engineering Technology to give the last years students an introduction to damage handling within the maritime industry.

These students graduating with a major in Maritime Technologies typically develop international careers as Technical Superintendents for ship owners, either as Surveyors for Class or Flagstate, either as Design Engineers at shipyards or engineering companies.

Niko’s report:

Rationale

The first time I ever boarded myself a commercial vessel in port, I remember being confronted with legions of people each of them acting in a different role representing different parties and interests: marine crews, ships husbandry agents, underwriters surveyors (Hull, P&I, ...), class surveyors, crewing agents, vessel managers, cargo owners reps, flagstate and portstate surveyors, forwarding agents, pilots, customs officials, operational superintendents, technical inspectors, on/off-hire surveyors, stevedores, bunker and victuals suppliers, ...

I did not have a clue what their role was and obviously even less I knew what information I could share with whom and with whom absolutely not. The memory to this first professional experience inspired me, as one of the originators of this Major, to have a course added to the programme introducing all possible actors within the maritime business. And be honest, is there a better story with nicer visuals thinkable to hook this lecture to, than a typical ship damage event giving a complete overview of all possibly involved parties?

I did not have a clue what their role was and obviously even less I knew what information I could share with whom and with whom absolutely not. The memory to this first professional experience inspired me, as one of the originators of this Major, to have a course added to the programme introducing all possible actors within the maritime business. And be honest, is there a better story with nicer visuals thinkable to hook this lecture to, than a typical ship damage event giving a complete overview of all possibly involved parties?

Contents

I typically start these courses by explaining some changes between the ‘simple past’, where you had a captain-owner looking after his own crew and cargo, and the more complex present ...where the legal, financial and commercial owners of a ship can be all different parties ...where the name being painted on a vessel does not automatically mean this branded company is the owner of the ship, neither the employer of the crew, neither the party responsible for the technical maintenance ...where the safety of crew, ship and cargo is being safeguarded, inspected and monitored by different independent companies and authorities ...where the flag of a ship means more than decoration and flying that flag has an impact from cradle to cradle during the complete lifetime of the ship…where insuring a ship and keeping it insured is just a bit more complex than having your own motorbike insured…where dealing with a ships damage can have serious financial, legal, technical and operational consequences…

I typically start these courses by explaining some changes between the ‘simple past’, where you had a captain-owner looking after his own crew and cargo, and the more complex present ...where the legal, financial and commercial owners of a ship can be all different parties ...where the name being painted on a vessel does not automatically mean this branded company is the owner of the ship, neither the employer of the crew, neither the party responsible for the technical maintenance ...where the safety of crew, ship and cargo is being safeguarded, inspected and monitored by different independent companies and authorities ...where the flag of a ship means more than decoration and flying that flag has an impact from cradle to cradle during the complete lifetime of the ship…where insuring a ship and keeping it insured is just a bit more complex than having your own motorbike insured…where dealing with a ships damage can have serious financial, legal, technical and operational consequences…
To keep everybody alert and awake (on an early Friday morning) it helps to show lots of spectacular pix of all kinds of damages that unfortunately still happen daily all over the world: huge hull penetrations, collision damage to infrastructure (locks, bridges, berths, fenders, jetties, ...), oil spills and pollution damage, engine room fires, explosion damage, cargo fires, capsizing due to stability issues, storm and bad weather damage to ship and cargo, groundings, sinking ships, lashing, securing and stevedoring issues, engine breakdown failures, propeller damages, damages to cargo, ...

To keep everybody alert and awake (on an early Friday morning) it helps to show lots of spectacular pix of all kinds of damages that unfortunately still happen daily all over the world: huge hull penetrations, collision damage to infrastructure (locks, bridges, berths, fenders, jetties, ...), oil spills and pollution damage, engine room fires, explosion damage, cargo fires, capsizing due to stability issues, storm and bad weather damage to ship and cargo, groundings, sinking ships, lashing, securing and stevedoring issues, engine breakdown failures, propeller damages, damages to cargo, ...
To end with I explain briefly some typical legal terms and situations the young maritime professionals might encounter in their careers: charter party/BoL, average adjustment, general average, liability, abandonment, joint and court surveys, salvage and Lloyd’s Open Form.

As always it was a pleasure to meet such an enthusiastic and interested audience. I wish you guys good luck with your final exams and all the best at the start of your careers!

Call to you

If you are interested to get a similar introduction yourselves or to your team / company, please be invited to contact me or Multi and we will be glad to look into the possibilities to cooperate.

Credits

My former employers BMT Surveys and URS/Smit/Boskalis allowed me to develop my current level of expertise in these domains and have provided some images and contributions to the contents of the course presentation and syllabus.

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