Damage control is an aspect that determines the success of a maritime operation; where a professional marine survey is where it all begins where a vessel is looked at in great detail. To understand damage and its consequences as well as how to avoid it one must understand safety first therefore our discussion starts here. Maritime safety is a combination of international codes and regulations along with regulations of ports, insurance companies, making borders between ship owners, operators and technical advisors vague.

Damage control also lies within modifications which have to be made to the shipping regulations which are made only after major incidents; making maritime industry a disaster-driven system where modifications to the system can be made only after the damage is already done.

When looking at safety it can be defined as a state when risks are at an acceptable, controllable level while risk can be defined as a measure of probability of hazards related to certain dimensions where one chooses to enter. Harm/damage which is aftermath of a situation is spread across people, (crew and passengers) environment, (nature/ecology, ports and related facilities, ships) and reputations of parties involved.

Another main feature of risk is the factor of uncertainty where it is unclear to what will happen in process of the maritime operation and thus anyone related to the operation would not know what will happen; making a survey the first step to decrease chances of error as it will detect faults which are fixable.

DSC06525Damage control, most of the time deals with repairing or even avoiding damage entirely as most of the time it leads the vessel to sink, repairing is harder than avoiding. Assume a situation where a vessel is required to complete a certain task which involves unpredictable events, international waters, customs, technology and environmental conditions.

Before we begin analysing damage possibilities it is worth mentioning that there are exist 4 accident theories where all are different to each other and a uniform theory is still non-existent, the theories are: domino theory/sequential theory, systemic theory  and epidemiological theory.

Domino theory/ sequential theory, for starters, is based on a chain of multiple events where its effect comes from those events following each other in sequence which ends with damage and its consequences. Epidemiological theory, however is based on causes of accidents to be transferred from a source in different forms, affected by a barrier and caught by victims. Systemic theory believes that origins of accidents are in interactions between different systems and don’t consider a single cause to be responsible for an accident and instead the incident is observed with regards to errors in operation, organisation and interaction between the systems.

Where to begin?
Answer; Inspect your vessel from all perspectives such as Conditions, Cargo required to haul, Management of the ship itself, Hull and Machinery review to name a few as this would help you see the interactions, organisation and relationships between all the systems. All systems produce energy during their operation and thus are affected by barriers present, if any and lead to different outcomes as it is carried by different agents.

Vessels need a certain survey to analyse the operation of the systems and their by-products which can potentially cause accidents. Along with that surveys are also vital to detect errors within these systems in advance and allow for more instant repair as well as detecting errors that could potentially  become more serious and fatal. Along with this, surveys are also needed to identify and/or create barriers for the energy created by systems and their operations as carriers of this energy get affected by barriers.

Surveys, especially damage surveys contribute to creation of an accident model which is a simplified version of reality which is made to highlight the most essential characteristics to a maritime operation.  Surveys are useful in measurement of consequences of certain circumstances where measurements are made on possible victims among manpower.

When talking about accidents they are broken down into 2 categories with regards to indicators; personal safety and process safety where the former relates to occupational safety while the latter relates to more major hazards that are present in common processes aboard.

7.  Close-up view of bow damages.

Here you see a damaged Hull, but how do you know if the Hull alone is at risk here? What to do in order to make this damage less serious and how to devise a management strategy which would carry the vessel in its current state? Along with this, a vessel can be more prone to Hull damage due to a design flaw when it was being constructed; giving another problem entirely and hence requiring another approach in terms of damage.

If design of the Hull is prone to damage, obviously requires more attention to other aspects to the vessel, some more than others in order to minimise loss; the challenge here is deciding what is that aspect along with the risk factor which follows.

Uncharted waters are unpredictable and the impact on the vessel can differ due to its category, design, condition and the cargo it carries; introducing more elements to the challenge in the form of customs.

Customs control the flow of goods to certain areas which also present regulations to be met in order for cargo to go through. A cargo survey is required for profit to be made as it determines if your goods are legitimate to go through altogether and save money on fines, transport costs as well as manufacture.


Surveys also contribute to damage control in ways that it can eliminate future errors that appear during the vessel’s lifespan; they appear due to errors in the mechanism, what the details are produced from and what the vessel carries.  Damage control also starts from the on-board conditions where a lot of errors are possible.

12.  Damaged bulwark.

While safety authorities shift focus on more technical aspects of human errors along with common safety culture as well as pre-planned instructions that may disregard some major errors. A survey on your vessel will thus help your operation be more successful in ways of detecting errors; both fatal and minor that can become fatal.