Jul 012008

The end of Maritime enquiries in Norway

WESMANS AS, Oslo correspondent for the Swedish Club, reports that Norway is to replace its century and a half old public enquiry system into maritime accidents, bringing it more into line with growing international practice and the IMO’s code of conduct for maritime casualty investigation.

Says Wesmans: “From 1 July, almost 150 years of maritime inquires after shipping disasters will be history. Seafarers and shipping companies will no longer have to explain themselves at public hearings.

“When the maritime inquiries disappear, the parties involved will have to give their statements directly to the police, the Accident Investigation Board Norway (AIBN) or the Norwegian Maritime Directorate. This will be regulated through an amendment of the existing maritime law.

“AIBN’s investigations of shipping disasters are meant to prevent new accidents and serious incidents, and improve safety at sea in general. The investigations shall not distribute guilt or responsibility.

“The prosecuting part of the investigations carried out by the maritime inspectors until now, will be transferred to the North Sea/Environmental Section of Rogaland police district. The unit will be responsible for the investigation and the application for a prosecution in shipping cases within their own districts. In addition, the unit will give assistance to other police districts that are investigating accidents occurring in their police districts.

“Resulting from the amendment of the maritime law, the Norwegian Maritime Directorate will play a more active part in the follow-up of accidents. The Directorate will also have the opportunity to carry out their own investigations into accidents. The Norwegian Maritime Directorate will mainly investigate the accidents which AIBN chooses not to investigate.

“The Norwegian Maritime Directorate is very committed to the prevention of accidents. We will therefore focus our inspections on those parts of the shipping industry where risk of accidents is the greatest. One example is the type of vessels that are subject to the most groundings.

“According to the new arrangement, notice of shipping disasters with loss of lives or considerable damage to ship, person or environment shall be given to a rescue coordination centre, which will make sure that other authorities are notified of the incident.

“A written report on the incident shall be submitted directly to the Norwegian Maritime Directorate within 72 hours.

“The Norwegian Maritime Directorate is hoping that the establishment of an independent investigating body, in addition to the Directorate’s own ability to investigate accidents, will give a better understanding of what causes accidents.”

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