[Excerpt] "A variety of commodities, from chlorine to corn and petroleum to passengers, are transported on the lower Mississippi River regularly. Corn, wheat and coal are the most commonly carried commodities. From a human health and safety perspective, these are relatively benign products in that a vessel accident and spill of these are not directly hazardous to people, whatever other ecological disturbances may ensue. However, over eighty million tons of petroleum products are transported on the river annually. Over a million tons of liquid natural gas traverse the river through the center of New Orleans. Additionally, over 400,000 tons of ammonium nitrate2 pass through the center of Baton Rouge annually. The potential for a technological disaster is certainly present […] The vast majority of the literature relevant to the question of vessel accident risk concerns the question of on-board causes of vessel accidents. It is assumed that the predictors of which vessel will have an accident are on-board the vessel (i.e., vessel and crew characteristics). The most commonly cited on-board hazards include: the size of the vessel; the age of the vessel; the length of the vessel; whether the vessel is single or double hulled; the maintenance of the vessel; the classification society under which the vessel is registered;12 the type of ownership; the history of ownership; where the vessel is flagged (i.e., flag of convenience or traditional maritime nation); license qualifications of mates and engineers; the vessel’s casualty history; the vessel’s history of violations; whether the vessel has system (e.g., steering) redundancy; and personnel history (including manning levels and the comparison of the present levels of manning with that of the vessel in the past and with similar type vessels)."
George Wooddell, Robert Gramling & Craig J.Forsyth, A Method for Modeling Low-Probability, High- Consequence Risk Events: Vessel Traffic on the Lower Mississippi River, 1 PIERCE L. REV. 85 (2002). Available at http://scholars.unh.edu/unh_lr/vol1/iss1/9