Underreporting of maritime accidents to vessel accident databases

Accid Anal Prev. 2011 Nov;43(6):2053-2063. doi: 10.1016/j.aap.2011.05.027. Epub 2011 Jun 12.


Underreporting of maritime accidents is a problem not only for authorities trying to improve maritime safety through legislation, but also to risk management companies and other entities using maritime casualty statistics in risk and accident analysis. This study collected and compared casualty data from 01.01.2005 to 31.12.2009, from IHS Fairplay and the maritime authorities from a set of nations. The data was compared to find common records, and estimation of the true number of occurred accidents was performed using conditional probability given positive dependency between data sources, several variations of the capture-recapture method, calculation of best case scenario assuming perfect reporting, and scaling up a subset of casualty information from a marine insurance statistics database. The estimated upper limit reporting performance for the selected flag states ranged from 14% to 74%, while the corresponding estimated coverage of IHS Fairplay ranges from 4% to 62%. On average the study results document that the number of unreported accidents makes up roughly 50% of all occurred accidents. Even in a best case scenario, only a few flag states come close to perfect reporting (94%). The considerable scope of underreporting uncovered in the study, indicates that users of statistical vessel accident data should assume a certain degree of underreporting, and adjust their analyses accordingly. Whether to use correction factors, a safety margin, or rely on expert judgment, should be decided on a case by case basis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accidents / statistics & numerical data*
  • Data Collection / standards*
  • Databases, Factual / standards
  • Databases, Factual / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Ships*