Maritime collision investigation continues as cause still unknown

As investigations over the collision between two vessels off the North Coast of Germany continues, insurers and shipping firms are seeking clarity on the cause.

Tragically the collision between the British-flagged Verity and the Bahamian flagged vessel Polesie has cost the life of one crewman with four others still missing following the incident in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

The Verity is believed to have sunk, while the Polesie remains afloat with rescue teams seeking to secure the vessel.

The Verity was travelling from the northern German city of Bremen to Immingham in the UK while the Polesie, was enroute to the Spanish port of La Coruña from Hamburg.

The two are believed to have collided off the coast of the German archipelago, Heligoland.

Statistics from marine insurer Allianz Commercial show that there were 280 collision incidents reported during 2022 alone (involving vessels over 100 GT). This makes vessel collision the second top cause of shipping incidents overall (after machinery damage/failure), accounting for around 1 in 10 of the 3,000+ shipping incidents reported around the world in 2022.

Collisions between vessels at sea are one of the main causes of shipping incidents around the world, as evidenced by a collision involving two cargo ships off Germany’s North Sea coast on Tuesday October 24. The British-flagged Verity collided with the Bahamas-flagged Polesie at around 5:00 local time (3:00 GMT). The Verity is reported to have sunk. Tragically, one crew member is reported to have died while a number of others are missing. The cause of the collision is not known.

Over the past decade to the end of last year, there have been some 3,100 collision incidents involving vessels reported. This also makes collision the second biggest cause of shipping incidents around the world during this period (after machinery damage/failure).

Thankfully, despite this week’s tragic events, total losses of vessels after being involved in a collision incident are rare. Just four vessels were lost after a collision during 2022, representing only 1% of all reported collision incidents. There have been 30 reported total losses from collisions involving vessels over the past decade.

There were 47 reported shipping collision incidents (involving vessels over 100 GT) in North Sea, British Isles, Bay of Biscay, and English Channel waters during 2022. Cargo ships were the most frequent vessel type involved in these incidents (14).

The Allianz Commercial Safety & Shipping Review stated: “Many factors can contribute to a vessel collision incident. Common causes include human errors and machinery/equipment/engine failure. Bad weather conditions can also contribute to the collision of vessels at sea.”