Marine Accidents: What Is Ship Grounding?

Author: Meetu Verma Nayyar

Marine Grounding Accidents

The history of marine accidents is quite old. But we will talk about latest incident which happened on April 14th, 2010, the master and other crew members of a Chinese cargo ship were arrested after the ship grounded on the Great Barrier Reef. The damage was assessed to a 3 km long channel that was gauged through the coral reefs. The reefs are regarded as a world heritage site that is already endangered. One often gets to hear news about marine accidents and ships being grounded and its consequences, though every time important sites like the Great Barrier Reef are not involved. In this article, the incident is being used to discuss and understand Ship Grounding.






What is Ship Grounding?

To put it simply, ship grounding is a type of marine accident. When the bottom of the ship impacts the ocean bed and damage is caused to the structure of the ship it is termed as ship grounding. Damage may be caused to the bottom of the ship and the hull compromising the structure and stability of the ship. Ship Grounding acquires importance for its effects on

  • The structure of the ship
  • The environment and the sea bed
  • Danger posed to human life
  • Financial consequence for the local community and the shipping company

Effects on the Structure of the Ship:

Grounding can have adverse and not so adverse effects on the structure of the ship. When the effects are not so adverse it is termed as soft grounding. Even in the case of soft grounding a thorough inspection needs to be made by experts and the vessel not be allowed to sail if the impact has effected the structure of the ship. When heavy damage is caused to a ship it is termed as wallop grounding. The structure and the stability of the ship are compromised in the case of wallop grounding. The hull and the submerged parts of the vessel suffer heavy damage. This could also lead to further accidents.

The Environment and the Sea Bed:

As seen in the case of the Chinese Ship being grounded on the Great Barrier Reef, it has left a channel in the corals. It has caused damage to a site that has been accredited as a world heritage site which already vulnerable due to rising temperatures and changing water quality in the area. Oil spillage was also observed in the area which also serves as the nesting ground for turtles and seabirds. The paint that was coated on the ship was also found on the corals. This particular incident adequately highlights the effect of marine accidents such ship grounding on the environment. Oil spillage, dispersal of paints containing heavy metals into sea water, dispersal of cargo are some of the effects that have far reaching effect on the environment.

Danger posed to Human Life:

Like any accident that occurs, marine accidents including ship grounding can prove to be fatal for not only people on board but around the area also. Run over, collisions, capsized ships are some of the effects that can lead loss of human life.







Financial Consequences:

A grounded ship definitely has financial consequences for the people around and the shipping company. Oil spillage, Cargo leakage, has an effect on the marine life of the area affecting the livelihood of many. Not only a large amount is spent on ship repairs but all the days the ship remains grounded and in the dockyard for repairs, means loss of revenue for the company.

Ship grounding is often the result of human error, but it may also be caused to tides and unknown rocks etc.

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