Ship casualties involving European Union-flagged ships operating in the region decreased last year, according to the latest statistics.

Figures from the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) reveal there were 2,837 maritime incidents in 2020, down by 499 on the previous year.

EMSA described 2020 as a "positive year" with a significant reduction in all the main casualty indicators.

There were 81 very serious marine casualties in 2019, but that figure reduced to 46 in 2020, a fall of 43.3%.

There was a similar decline in constructive total losses, with 22 ships lost in 2019, but only 9 in 2020. There were 72 lives lost at sea in 2019, compared with 38 in 2020.

EMSA said the decrease in accident numbers is partly attributable to the Covid-19 pandemic, which reduced shipping traffic in the European region last year, with ferry and passenger-ship services virtually coming to a halt.

"Consequences of the Covid pandemic are very likely to have affected the area of marine casualties and incidents, taking into consideration its significant impact on shipping in 2021," EMSA said.

EMSA's overall figures also include fishing vessels.

In total 1,386 commercial cargo ships were involved in accidents in EU waters, with 21 fatalities recorded in the cargo-ship sector.

EU member states undertook 966 accident investigations, and produced 823 safety reports, which are available to the public.

In the period between 2014 to 2020 the accident reports revealed that 89.5% of accidents are attributable to human error.

Over the same period there have been 550 deaths, and 6,921 injuries, caused by marine casualties in EU waters.