Blog: Learning from accidents

By Michael Stig, Designated Person at DFDS

You have all undoubtedly heard about the Titanic disaster in 1912, it is probably the most well-known maritime accident in history. But the maritime history does sadly have many other very tragic accidents.

The Titanic disaster lead to the SOLAS Convention which is a set of safety rules for ships. SOLAS is short for” Safety of Life at Sea”. It is a set of safety rules for ships, it still exists today but it has been amended many times, both in response to maritime accidents and to developments in the maritime field.

You can see a brief explanation of it here

The SOLAS convention is in many ways a retroactive instrument, it often changes after an accident has happened, and not before.

The ISM Code was introduced by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) as a more proactive instrument to address safety and prevent accidents and incidents before they happened as one of the objectives of the Code.

And in a simplified way you could say that that near-miss situation was introduced to shipping. And hence the idea of preventing an accident from happening by addressing it when it is “just” a near-miss situation and before turning into an accident was introduced to the shipping industry.

The ISM Code is a whole lot more than this, that is for sure. But for this short article we have just touched upon the near-miss reporting and lesson learned aspects of the ISM Code. The objective of the Code is “to ensure safety at sea, prevention of human injury or loss of life, and avoidance of damage to the environment, in particular, to the marine environment, and to property” as the Code reads.

The ISM Code is short for “International Management Code for the Safe Operation of Ships and for Pollution Prevention”.
But the background for introducing the ISM Code was sadly also rather tragic. A number of major maritime disasters lead to it. e.g. The Herald of Free Enterprise, The Estonia & the Scandinavian Star disasters.

Read more about the ISM Code here on the IMO website

In terms of the Scandinavian Star disaster, DR & NRK have recently made a documentary about this disaster.
And more recently a documentary has also been made about the Estonia disaster on a large network channel.

If you want to read the official accident investigation reports from the three maritime disasters, you can find them here:


Scandinavian Star

Herald of Free Enterprise

If you want to read more and learn from the accidents in the maritime fields, you can find some links to useful resources below.

E.g. all flag states have an obligation to investigate into large maritime accidents to find the lessons learned from these accidents and prevent future accidents from happening again.

Below we have linked to some of the maritime investigation branches for the flags that we have in the DFDS fleet. But there are of course many more.


Read about lessons learned from the IMO here.

If you want to read near-miss reports from other companies, the Nautical Institute runs the Mariners’ Alerting and Reporting Scheme (MARS) where everybody interested can read both accident and near-miss reports from other companies in the maritime industry.

December 17, 2020