The Graph shows the number of total losses recorded by Clarksons Research by ship type.
Over the long term, the trend is downward: 153 losses were registered in 1996, but only 51 have been recorded so far for 2015 (ships 100+ GT).
It is possible that a more systematic approach to safety and environmental monitoring has helped to ensure that only well-maintained ships put to sea. In 1996, the MoUs collectively performed just over 30,000 inspections, 9.6% of which resulted in a detention.
By 2015, the number of inspections had risen to more than 80,000. But detention levels have consistently declined, to 3.5% of vessels inspected in 2015. The most likely explanation for this is that fewer vessels with deficiencies serious enough to warrant detention are being encountered.
The reduced trend in losses has been particularly marked since 2009, driven by fewer losses of small general cargo vessels. 1,817 general cargo vessels have been scrapped since the start of 2009. This has removed elderly breakbulk tonnage (which hung on in the boom) from the market, possibly reducing losses.
Of course, although losses have become less frequent in numerical terms, a persistent fear for the industry is a high profile casualty (as the White Ship was).
Analogous modern-day examples might include the Costa Concordia ($1.2bn salvage cost) or Rena ($0.7bn). The ability of salvage operators, hull & machinery insurers
or P&I clubs to handle a larger loss of an ultra-large containership or cruise ship has been much debated.
The grounding of the rig Transocean Winner off Scotland in August shows that even in the modern maritime world of the 21st century, vessels still get into difficulties. Fortunately, this was not a disaster: minimal oil
was spilled, and the drilling unit was speedily salvaged.
The indicators on the graph suggest that the industry may be becoming safer. In numerical terms, only 0.05% of the world fleet 100+ GT was lost in 2015, down from 0.26% back in 1996. These are positive signs, but, as much of the English government discovered
aboard the White Ship, the sea always needs treating with respect.