Marine traffic, accidents, and underreporting in the Baltic Sea

Otto-Ville Sormunen, Maria Hänninen, Pentti Kujala

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This paper presents an overview of ship traffic volume and accidents in the Baltic Sea with a special focus on the Gulf of Finland. The most common accidents are groundings and collisions, usually reported to be caused by human error. The annual number of Baltic Sea accidents reported to HELCOM varied from 34–54 for collisions and 30–60 for groundings. The number of yearly port calls varied from 468–505 thousand with a peak in 2008. Exact port call data could not be found for all ports and hence had to be estimated. The number of line crossingings in HELCOM AIS data was found to be a good, rough surrogate measure for the total number of port calls and could be used if more precise port call data was not available. By analyzing two separate accident databases, an estimate for accident underreporting was calculated. Different statistical methods yielded an underreporting rate in the range of 40–50%. Lastly, the true number of accidents was estimated, based on the estimated underreporting percentage for the Baltic Sea. Based on these results, the true number of true
accidents should be first estimated if accident statistics are used in building or validating maritime risk models. When using such models or accidents statistics in decision-making, the underlying uncertainty in the accident statistics should be taken into account as the underreporting frequency estimates are only approximations of the real number of accidents.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-177
Number of pages14
JournalScientific Journals of the Maritime University of Szczecin
Issue number118
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jun 2016
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Marine traffic
  • risk
  • accidents
  • underreporting
  • ship collisions
  • groundings


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