Strangely, just about all the reasonably complete tanker casualty databases are proprietary. Many countries maintain more or less complete databases of the tanker casualties and spills that occur in their own waters, and make this data freely available to the public. These include Australia, the UK and the USA. However, only private for profit groups have stepped in to combine the data worldwide.

To get access to these private databases, one must
  1. pay a substantial amount of money, and
  2. much worse, accept restrictions on disclosure.
No legitimate spill researcher can accept restrictions on disclosure. This violates one of the most basic principles of science. If anyone publishes some sort of summary or analysis of the spill data, then anyone else should be able to go to the data and reproduce the same summary. If he can't, we don't have science; we have advertising. Intertanko, the tanker owner lobbying group, claims that spills dropped dramatically between the 70's and the 80's. It turns out that this is true; but, since the data on which this claim is based is not public, the claim is in a strict sense meaningless.

Secondly, if the spill data is publically available anyone can question it, correct it, and add to it; and the quality of the data, which in the private databases is often execrable, will be improved. Many tankermen, salvors, spill responders, etc know a lot about a handful of spills; but there is no easy way for them to contribute that knowledge. And it certainly makes little sense to contribute if the recipient then takes this contribution and turns it into his/her private property.

Thirdly, if the data is publically and easily available, maybe, just maybe, the people writing tanker regulation might take a look at it. IMO is passing tanker regulation left and right without apparently even looking at the spill data. Misdirected regulation with unintended consequences is the inevitable result.

Goals of the CTX Casualty Database

The CTX Casualty Database (CDB) is a bit different from any of the existing databases in several respects.

Public for Use

Most importantly, the casualty data is available to anyone without charge, under the Gnu Free Documentation License (GFDL). The CDB can be downloaded by anyone who wishes to do their own analysis of the data. The GFDL in no way restricts anyone from doing legitimate analysis, nor passing the data on. It's goal is to ensure that any derivative documents are free in the same sense that the CDB is free. The last thing we want is for the CDB data to fall into proprietary hands.

Public for contribution

The CTX is painfully aware that our tanker casualty data is incomplete and is bound to be incorrect in places. We know that behind every spill, every casualty, there is a story; and in many, if not most, cases we know we do not have that story, certainly not the complete story. Especially when it come to cause, the CDB is replete with blanks and hopefully informed guesses. We also know that somebody out there knows what really happened. The CTX will be happy to receive any corrections, additions, comments, etc which contributions, if used, will be fully credited if desired. The CTX will also protect the identities of contributors who wish to be so protected. We are particularly interested in receiving the offical investigation reports. See How to Contribute for details.

Focus on Real Cause

Almost all the current spill databases, public or private, focus on what happened after the spill. The CTX data base focuses on what happened before the spill, rather than the post spill impact and attempts to ameliorate those impacts, although links to the post-spill material are included when available. All the existing databases, private and public, are sadly deficient when it comes to cause. Calling "grounding" the cause of a spill is like blaming the earth for an airplane crash. Not only is "grounding" never the real cause of a spill, but by talking about grounding as if were the cause, we focus attention away from measures that could have prevented the grounding.

The CTX database tries to get to the real cause, which is never grounding, fire/explosion, or even collision. Ships don't ground themselves, nor all of sudden blow up, nor run into each other for no reason. Instead of "a" cause, for each casualty, the CDB has a series of event codes. Grounding, fire/explosion, collision and the like are never the initial event. If the initial event is not known, often the case, it is left blank. The CTX hopes that contributors will be able to fill in these all important blanks

You can search the CDB at www.c4tx.org/ctx/job/cdb/search.html. Click here for a detailed description of the CTX Casualty Database.

Email about this project should be sent to cdb@c4tx.org.

HTML-list of Casualties