Download the Insight report on safety in the passenger ferry industry

Executive summary

The global passenger ferry industry has averaged more than 1,000 fatalities per year since the 1960s, with the great majority occurring on domestic voyages in Asia and Africa.

From 1966 to 2015 there were 750 recorded fatal accidents involving passenger vessels, resulting in 59,600 fatalities. Ninety-three per cent of ferry accidents occurred during domestic voyages, with 90% of fatalities occurring in just 20 countries and 76% in 10.

The Lloyd's Register Foundation identified passenger ferry safety as a challenge in its Insight report on global safety challenges, in 2017. Since then The Foundation has investigated further to better understand the issue. It has drawn on expert knowledge and opinion to determine what activity is already underway to improve safety, what is further needed, and to explore if there is a unique role for The Foundation in line with its charitable mission.

The investigation has focused on establishing or confirming:

  • the countries or locations where the most fatalities are occurring
  • the predominant causes of accidents in these countries
  • the practical measure(s) which could save the most lives.

This Insight report on safety in the passenger ferry industry presents the following key findings:

  • The highest numbers of fatalities have occurred in the Philippines, Bangladesh, and Indonesia.
  • Globally, the causes of ferry accidents are related to the economic status, value placed on life and social outlook of the operators and passengers in the countries where the incidents occurred.

    In countries enjoying relatively favourable economies, causes include:
    • failure to enforce existing regulations
    • suboptimal vessel design (including bridge, and other location, ergonomics)
    • suboptimal technology informing captains and crews of real-time vessel status
    • incomplete or less than best-practice safety training
    • suboptimal emergency equipment, for example lack of equipment making it possible to pinpoint vessel location at any time
    • suboptimal safety culture producing dangerous behaviours and decisions.

    In countries with less favourable economies, the causes are different, including:
    • lack of any form of enforceable regulation or complete failure to enforce existing regulations
    • very poor vessel design and / or construction, leading to small vessels which are unseaworthy
    • inadequate or totally absent vessel maintenance
    • inadequate weather information or, more often, failure to heed weather warnings
    • absence of crew training.
  • A non-profit, ferry-operator funded organisation dedicated to improving ferry safety should be established. The initial operational area will be the three countries experiencing the most fatalities, but the long-term intention is to offer safety services globally. The initial step in each location where the organisation operates will be to identify the specific local situation and scope of activity.

    Partnerships with like-minded organisations and local representation will be crucial to success. Connections will be made with key stakeholders such as owners, governments, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), International Labour Organization (ILO), flag authorities, IACS (International Association of Classification Societies), crew unions and the general public.
  • The network of safety experts who contributed to the work should be supported and expanded. This will be facilitated by the establishment of a platform from which they can share expertise, experience, knowledge and good practice and engage with policy makers, industry and the wider public on safety issues in the industry.