Tag Archives: investigation

Maritime accidents: rules for investigative interviews

This was originally post by Maritime Accident Casebook’s Bob Couttie in LinkedIn. According to him, it came to light “when was originally written when the US objected to seafarers being advised of their rights to legal representation and cautioned against self incrimination in the draft of the new investigation code”.

  1. A rubber hose does not make a good investigator.
  2. Waterboarding is not best practice.
  3. Do not play with your sidearm while interviewing witnesses.
  4. Administering pentothal is not recommended practice.
  5. Phrases such as “I know where your children go to school” are best avoided.
  6. Do not ask which finger the interviewee would prefer to have broken.
  7. Ensure that any electrical equipment used on an interviewee is inherently safe, properly grounded and has been verified as safe by a marine electrician.
  8. Do not shout at interviewees unless they are deaf.
  9. Ensure that any dentist present is properly qualified and wearing ear protectors
  10. At the end of the interview count the interviewee’s fingers, toes and limbs and, if appropriate, private parts as you may be held accountable for any subsequently determined discrepancy.

And a special final rule for the U.S.:

11. “Miranda? What freakin’ Miranda” is not appropriate in a maritime accident investigation.

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ACCIDENTS: No interaction between people, destructive interaction between ships

From the British Maritime Accident Investigation Branch’s Safety Digest 2/2011:


A 2,800gt cargo vessel collided with a 58,000gt ro-ro vessel as it was overtaking the larger vessel in the confines of a buoyed channel when they were departing from a major port. Local pilots were embarked on both vessels at the time.

The ro-ro vessel had recently entered the channel from a lock, and was steadily increasing speed as the cargo vessel approached her from the starboard quarter. The cargo vessel’s pilot assumed the ro-ro vessel would quickly increase speed and pull ahead, and initially was not concerned as the distance between the two vessels continued to decrease.

However, the cargo vessel continued to overtake the other vessel, and with shallow water to starboard it reduced speed in an attempt to prevent a collision. Unfortunately this action was ineffective as the cargo vessel was now so close to the ro-ro vessel that hydrodynamic interaction occurred between the two vessels. The cargo vessel took a sheer to port and collided with the ro-ro vessel’s starboard quarter.

The cargo vessel’s engine was stopped, but she remained pinned against the ro-ro vessel for several minutes. The ro-ro vessel’s bridge team had been unaware of the close proximity of the other vessel until the collision occurred as both vessels had been monitoring different VHF channels.

The cargo vessel’s engine was then put astern and she slid aft, along the ro-ro vessel’s hull, until she came clear of the larger vessel. Both vessels suffered minor damage as a result of the collision, but were able to continue on their respective passages.

The Lessons

  1. The cargo vessel was overtaking the ro-ro vessel and was thus the give way vessel. However, the pilot of the cargo vessel assumed that the ro-ro vessel would quickly pull ahead, but by the time it was realised that this was not happening, it was too late to avoid a collision. The pilot of the cargo vessel made an assumption, based on scanty information, that the ro-ro vessel was increasing speed. He should have ensured that this was the case before coming so close to the other vessel that a collision was unavoidable.[REMARK: Something like a "before overtaking checklist" might be useful in helping pilots and bridge teams avoid critical errors in this potentially hazardous situation. It might as well contribute to avoid the dangers of the "control and command" style of navigation in restricted waters. Pilotage is a complex act that requires orchestration rather than one or two bright soloists.]
  2. Hydrodynamic interaction occurred between the two vessels when the cargo vessel drew level with the ro-ro’s starboard quarter. There was a strong attractive force between the two vessels due to the reduced pressure between the underwater portion of the hulls. Mariners should familiarise themselves with MGN 199 (M) Dangers of interactionin order to be alert to the situations when hydrodynamic interaction may occur.[REMARK: A video from the Ilawa Ship Handling Research Training Centre can give you a better idea of how this sort of interaction between ships is about. There is also some relevant footage from the Port Revel Training Centre on the same subject.]
  3. The bridge personnel were not functioning as a team on either vessel. They had been monitoring different VHF channels and those on the ro-ro vessel were not aware of the cargo vessel until after the collision. It is essential that every member of the bridge team remains vigilant and fully involved in monitoring the execution of the passage, and that a good all round lookout is maintained when the vessel is in pilotage waters as well as when she is at sea.[REMARK: It's about communication and awareness, after all. If overtakings are allowed in pilotage districts, everyone involved in the passage must be aware or made aware of this possibility and prepare for it accordingly.]

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ACCIDENT | NTSB: Duck boat call unanswered before collision

A preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board says an idled tour boat and nearby vessels made repeated calls to the tugboat guiding the massive barge that hit and sunk the craft, killing two Hungarian students.

In Friday’s report, the NTSB found the stricken amphibious tour boat’s radio calls to the approaching tug went unanswered in the moments before the collision in the Delaware River on July 7.

There were 35 passengers and two crew members aboard the Ride the Ducks amphibious boat when it was hit just south of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, which links Philadelphia and New Jersey.

The barge plowed over the duck boat, sinking it and sending passengers into the water. Two Hungarians drowned.

According to the report, drug and alcohol tests on the crews of both vessels were negative. The mate piloting the tugboat declined to answer investigators’ questions, citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Source: http://www.centredaily.com

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Mystery in the Hormuz: cracks appear in M Star

Cracks have appeared in the hull of the MOL tanker which continues to be the focus of an investigation into a mysterious incident off Oman on Wednesday.

The Japanese owner of the 314,000-dwt M. Star (built 2008) will not back down from its assertion that “an explosion” near the Strait of Hormuz caused a huge dent in the ship’s hull but has denied there was any fire damage.

The Marshall Islands-flagged VLCC remains at anchor at the UAE port of Fujairah as authorities appear baffled at what occurred in the early hours of Wednesday leaving one crew member slightly injured.

Masanori Kobayashi, general manager of MOL’s marine safety division, told TradeWinds on Friday that a dent measuring 14 metres wide and seven metres high is visible above the waterline on the starboard side of the ship.

Kobayashi also said that a number of “small cracks” have developed on the hull due to apparent impact from “an outside cause”. The safety chief insisted, however, that there has been no water ingress or leakage of any of the cargo of cruse oil.

Despite repeatedly referring to the incident as “an explosion”, Kobayashi said there is no evidence of any scorch marks on the hull nor are there any obvious signs of paint marks from another vessel or object. He continued by saying at no time during or after the incident was there a fire onboard the tanker.

MOL was quick to point to an explosion as the result of the incident and has not ruled out an attack or collision. The Japanese owner did, however, tell TradeWinds on Thursday that damage from a freak wave cause by a low-level regional earthquake was “not likely”. A UAE port official has also distanced himself from earlier claims of a freak wave being behind the incident, instead suspecting a collision of some sort.

TradeWinds had earlier been told by MOL spokesperson Kazumi Nakamura that representatives from the US Navy as well as from the UKMTO had boarded the tanker at Fujairah. However, Nakamura on Friday said the company later found out the US Navy had not been onboard.

Reiterating the company’s stance on the probable cause of the incident, Nakamura added on Friday: “Since there are dents on the starboard side hull and damage to the crew quarters area that appear to have been made from the outside, we believe the damage was caused by some external force”.

Amongst other scenarios, the investigation is likely to examine the possibility that the ship was struck by a submarine or a sea mine. An attack by terrorists or Somali pirates has not been ruled out.

By Eoin O’Cinneide in London

Source: Tradewinds

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SAFETY | Norwegian disappointment

WHEN the 26,800 dwt Panama-flagged Full City dragged its anchor on to the rocks off southern Norway in the summer of 2009, it leaked 200 tonnes of fuel oil into the country’s coastal waters and led to the criminal trial of two of the ship’s Chinese officers.

The ongoing investigation is a very important case for Norwegian maritime justice as it is the first full-scale test of the new Accident Investigation Board in Norway.

Previously, maritime accidents in Norway were investigated by way of traditional maritime inquiries.

The maritime inquiry conducted a general examination of the accident and its causes, and considered both safety at sea issues and the allocation of civil and criminal liability. The questioning of witnesses was led by an experienced mariner inspector.

This has, for several decades, been heavily criticised for the tendency to criminalise the seafarers as the same institution or person carried out both the safety inspection and the police investigation, and even claimed the criminal sentence to the victim.

But from July 1, 2008, Norway implemented a new investigation system, where understanding the cause and the criminal investigation were separated.

Following an international trend, the new rules gave the AIBN the authority to investigate the accident for the purpose of identifying circumstances of importance to improve the general safety at sea, but not to apportion criminal liability.

The responsibility of the criminal investigation was transferred to the local police authority that has the jurisdiction in the area where the accident occurs.

Regretfully, in view of the intention to put a stop to the unacceptable criminalisation of seafarers, the full-scale test of the new system, as we have seen by the Full City case, must be characterised as a great disappointment for the group of senior mariners, which for a decade were fighting for change.

The previous problem — that the same maritime accident investigators also carried out the police investigation and even instigated preliminary judgment — seems to have been replaced by the quite opposite problem, that the police are now investigating potential criminal charges following a maritime accident without being qualified.

Following the Full City case, the Norwegian Pilot Organisation sent a letter to the Norwegian Department of Justice claiming that the police should not be involved in the investigation of maritime accidents as they are not qualified.

After the Full City grounding most of the crew were interviewed, first by the police, later in court, presumably in order for the police to use their statements in any substantial criminal court. However, the ship master and third mate were almost immediately taken to virtual house arrest in Norway for nearly five months by detention of their passports.

They were preliminary charged with violations of Section 152b of the Norwegian Criminal Code and various sections of the Norwegian Ships Security Act.

Following the trial the master was sentenced to six months imprisonment, with three months suspended. The third mate received two months with three weeks suspended. The sentences are now at the appeal courts.

The present and common mandate to the accident investigation boards is to limit their activity to a maritime safety investigation and completely keep away from assessing probably criminal misdemeanour of the crew.

This is fair enough if there is no need for a criminal investigation. But in cases where the state’s public prosecutor wants to investigate possible civil liability or criminal offences, the accident investigation board should carry out a full safety management system evaluation and clarify compliance with the International Safety Management Code.

This is crucial information for the police before the starting up of a criminal investigation. We cannot expect the police investigator to have the full insight and understanding of the ship’s operational and navigational details and the sharing of responsibility between the company and the ship. Another flaw in the Full City case is that the court is acting and judging on behalf of a preliminary report, which clearly states that the investigation is not yet concluded. We see no evidence that the police have consulted anyone with a maritime background.

In the case of the Full City officers, they were detained in virtual house arrest by the confiscation of their passports. This must be considered as an illegal action and not justified in maritime laws.

Recent studies by BIMCO have identified 14 cases of seafarer’s detainment that took place during an 11-year period involving 12 coastal states. None of them were later convicted. According to BIMCO, this is unfair treatment of seafarers and a questionable application of law.

Marpol and the European Union’s directive 2005/35/EC give guidance on criminal proceedings being pursued only in cases where intent or serious neglect can be proven.

Even the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas urges that the human rights of the accused must be observed in all trials relating to the alleged violation of maritime pollution laws.

Has this provision been fulfilled for the Full City seafarers when their trial was based upon a preliminary investigation, and the police investigation was lacking professional maritime competence?

Arne Sagen is an authorised loss control manager, lead ISM code auditor and IACS quality assessor. He has been acting as port state inspector for Trinidad and Tobago, Namibia, Egypt and as flag state inspector for Antigua and Barbados. He is also on the advisory board of the Norwegian maritime safety lobby group, Skagerrak Foundation.

Source: http://www.lloydslist.com/ll/sector/regulation/article172372.ece?src=Search

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