Dec 102010

Has Chirp had its chips?

Support for one of the best known confidential accident and close call reporting schemes, the Confidential Hazardous Incident Reporting Programme, CHIRP, is to be cut by the UK’s Department for Transport. The department will depend upon the private sector and leave the UK without such a scheme.

International bodies are expected to take up the slack. Says the statement by Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Mike Penning:” The Department for Transport also currently provides a financial contribution towards the costs of the Confidential Hazardous Incident Reporting Programme for shipping, CHIRP, which provides an outlet for mariners to voice safety concerns. However, the scheme has not gained the traction hoped for in the commercial shipping and fishing sectors and there are other services established by the industry such as the Nautical Institute’s Mariners’ Alerting and Reporting Scheme. I have therefore concluded that the Department should cease to provide financial support for this scheme at the end of this financial year. The Department will work closely with the commercial, fishing and recreational sectors to see how confidential reporting opportunities might be provided in the future without financial assistance from Government”.

CHIRP was established in 1982 as a confidential reporting scheme for the aviation industry and became a charitable company in 1996. In 2003, the then Minister for Transport, Dr Kim Howells, launched a maritime programme, which is governed by an independent board of trustees.

Unlike most confidential reporting schemes CHIRP frequently followed up on complaints and issues while maintaining the confidentiality of its informants and had achieved a high level of success and trust among seafarers.

In its 2009 review, CHIRP says: “CHIRP is adding value to safety in the maritime sector by following up individual reports and promulgating information on incidents and issues. In a number of aspects, this contribution would not otherwise have been available to the maritime community… There is a continuing need for a UK maritime confidential reporting system whereby mariners can have confidence that each individual report will be followed up in such a way that the identity of the reporter is not disclosed and so that lessons learned can be promulgated across the wider maritime community”.

The main means of getting its safety message out was Maritime Feedback, frequently referenced by Maritime Accident Casebook. Printing and distribution of Feedback took about a third of CHIRP’s maritime-related budget of £256K in 2009/10.

In MAC’s view the loss of CHIRP is a blow to UK maritime safety that can be ill-afforded. While there are proposals for a European confidential reporting scheme one can doubt whether it can really be as effective.

Confidential reporting schemes are difficult to get up an running. Over the years many have fallen by the wayside and a number of those still in the game depend largely on published accident reports and do not have the mechanism to follow through on the reports they receive.

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