Maritime losses over 100GT fell to 117 in 2013, a 20 per cent YoY reduction, according to the Allianz Safety and Shipping Review 2014. But safety concerns still persist, including rapidly increasing Polar traffic levels due to the emergence of new access points and changing fuel compositions, which affect on board machinery. There were also 2,596 casualties or incidents involving seafarers over the course of 2013, with 464 taking place in the East Mediterranean and Black Sea.

Arctic incidents have rocketed from an average of seven per year in 2007, to 45 a year. The report highlights the risk posed by the fact that Navigational technology in the high north is constrained, as GPS is not dependable at that latitude. Also, there is currently a lack of good charts, communication systems and other navigational aids, all of which pose challenges for mariners. It also welcomes the impending adoption of the IMO’s draft Polar Code in 2014, which will offer the first structure for governance of the region in a maritime context.

Thankfully, the superyacht community does not face the pressures of constant service that other passenger vessels do, nor do superyachts regularly frequent the danger hotspots (South China, Indo-China, Indonesia and Philippines). But this year is set to see the 100th passenger vessel loss since 2002, and whilst it is unlikely to involve a superyacht, it has brought safety under stark scrutiny from the IMO. Its Maritime Safety Committee is reviewing SOLAS regulation III/19 on emergency training, which could enforce mandatory ‘enclosed-space entry and rescue’ drill training for crewmembers every two months.

According to the report, the biggest threat to the insurance sector is machinery damage. The International Union of Marine Insurance reports that machinery damage accounts for ‘20 per cent of costs’, and expects this figure to rise in line with an increase in the use of low-sulphur fuels. Captain Rahul Khanna predicts, “The fear is that we will see more and more cat fines (ceramic deposits derived from the cracking process) problems and more damaged engines,” he says. “One of the problems has been the acceptable limit of cat fines in the fuel as set by ISO, and accepted by IMO, is quite high, at 60mg. The engine manufacturers are saying that as much as 15mg-20mg of cat fines in the fuel could be enough to cause damage to the engine.”

And talking of fuel, the report highlights the inexorable rise of LNG as a marine fuel, which according to Bloomberg will be used three times the number of ships in 2014 as the 42 LNG-powered vessels on the water in 2013. Bloomberg predicts this number will grow to 1,800 vessels by 2020. This source of power has received precious little interest from the superyacht fraternity because of the disproportionate size of storage solutions and a lack of global infrastructure for bunkering.

Khanna agrees that there are myriad stumbling blocks to its widespread adoption: “The technology itself is not new”, he says. “The concern is storing the LNG as fuel and handling it on board. LNG expertise is not easily available – there needs to be a change in mindset and training. And an even bigger challenge is how do you actually bunker a ship with LNG? How do you deal with LNG ashore? It is not something that can be easily handled; it requires specialisation, technical expertise and know-how.”

And there is a final word of warning against complacency over falling piracy rates. Because, while the number of attacks is falling, their breadth has spread. And superyacht captains should be aware that the increasingly popular cruising grounds of South East Asia accounted for 128 of 264 attacks last year.

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