UK – Last week in London freight and passenger interests witnessed the first ever Marine Accident Prevention & Investigation Conference and the event gave Nautilus International senior national secretary Allan Graveson an opportunity to express, in the strongest possible terms, the lamentable lack of investigation of major maritime accidents despite a well established framework of international regulation.
Nautilus, the trade union and professional organisation which represents 24,000 maritime professionals at sea and ashore, claim there are many shipping accidents where no independent investigation ever takes place, reports are never published, trends never identified, and lessons never learned. Mr Graveson commented:
“What an atrocious state of affairs, and no wonder this is an industry that labours under an image problem. Some flag states will argue that they do not have the resources for adequate investigations. In such cases should states be allowed to register ships? I think not. If you are a flag state you have to discharge the responsibilities that come with the often very attractive income that registration generates. Those that fail to discharge these responsibilities must be named and shamed, and ultimately stripped of their status as a flag state.”
Nautilus feels that the continuing toll of deaths and injuries involving lifeboat drills and enclosed spaces, as well as the large number of fatigue related accidents, indicated that even the best flag states sometimes fall short in delivering accident investigation reports that address long-standing and fundamental safety failings. Mr Graveson continued:
“There is a need for investigations to go beyond the immediate causes of an incident and wide-ranging recommendations that not only prevent the same incident but similar incidents where associated factors have a potential adverse influence. Above all, there should be decisive regulatory action. The latter is difficult to achieve in an international environment where some flag states are dependent upon revenues from shipping and are reluctant to be seen as pressing for what are frequently referred to as ‘burdens’ on the industry for fear of scaring away ship owners from their registry.
“In many countries accident investigation, criminal and regulatory investigations are not independent. This has serious potential adverse effects for the seafarer, but more so for the accident investigator who is less likely to get to truth. As a consequence we all suffer, seafarers without doubt, passengers and cargo owners in not preventing reoccurrence, and the national economy and the environment through possible pollution.
“Despite the sterling efforts of the rapidly developing accident investigation industry, prompted by new regulatory measures, there is still a considerable way to go in an industry that has, and continues to accept, a rate of losses and fatalities that other sectors of industry would find intolerable.”