Safety investigations into marine casualties

This week INTERTANKO attended a seminar onboard the HQS Wellington in London, focusing on Marine Investigation. Brian Martin-Castex from the IMO gave delegates the background to the draft IMO "Code of International Standards and Recommended Practices for a Safety Investigation into a Marine Casualty or Marine Incident" (Casualty Investigation Code), and elaborated on its objectives.


It is anticipated that the new draft code will become mandatory through adoption by the IMO's Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) at its meeting in May this year (MSC 84). The draft code is intended to replace the existing Code for the investigation of marine casualties and incidents (Resolution A.849(20), as amended by A.884(21)). By making the code mandatory, for flag states, it is hoped that lessons can be learned thereby avoiding similar accidents or incidents happening again. It was repeatedly emphasised that the draft code does not seek to impose liability, but rather seeks to find out what happened and particularly why an accident/incident occurred.


As things stand, incidents are often attributed to human error. However Dr. Phil Anderson, of forensic analysts RTI Ltd, in his presentation, quoted Sydney Dekker (2002) "Human error is not the conclusion of an investigation - it is the starting point", and further discussed how important it is that marine investigators do focus on finding the root cause of accidents. He said that investigators should find out "why" and "how" an accident happened, rather than "what happened", as only then can similar accidents be prevented.


In the afternoon delegates were given an excellent presentation by Capt. Tim Crowch, a former airline pilot, who drew parallels between the aviation industry and the marine industry. The core of his message was that safety management is an investment, and should not be underestimated by company management. Cultural awareness and crew resource management are key elements in this process, he said, as was learnt by the aviation industry the hard way after hundreds died after a collision between two aircraft in Tenerife 1977. He then added to the quote made by Dr. Andersson, "Human Error is the symptom - not the disease". The "disease" may then be cured by standard design, human design, improved training and increased emphasis on non-technical skills/competency, he believes.


The conclusion of the seminar was that the new draft "Code of International Standards and Recommended Practices for a Safety Investigation into a Marine Casualty or Marine Incident", if correctly used and implemented, could prove an important tool to the industry as it strives to improve its safety record.


Contact: Chantal Cheung-tam-he or Fredrik Larsson