Marine Accident Investigation Unit

The Irish Government approves drafting of the Merchant Shipping (Investigation of Marine Accidents) Bill for a full-time Marine Accident Investigation Unit. Photo: MCIB

Government approves drafting of the Merchant Shipping (Investigation of Marine Accidents) Bill

On 06 December 2022, the Government approved the drafting of a Merchant Shipping (Investigation of Marine Accidents) Bill to provide for a full-time Marine Accident Investigation Unit within the Department of Transport.

The Unit, which will be located outside of the Department, will replace the Marine Casualty Investigation Board as the permanent body responsible for marine accident investigation. 

Separately, the Bill will also provide enabling powers to develop regulations which will cover the construction, survey and certification of various classes of offshore service vessels on the Irish flag.

BIM RNLI man overboard training

The establishment of a Marine Accident Investigation Unit is one of the six recommendations set out in a review of the current organisational structures underpinning marine accident investigation in Ireland in the context of national, EU and international obligations commissioned by the Department of Transport in 2021. The review was undertaken by Clinchmaritime Ltd. and Captain Steve Clinch, the former Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents for the UK’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch.  The final Report of the review was received in July of 2021.

The Department is now in a position to publish the recommendations and observations arising from the review.  The report’s recommendations are the key output of the review and they are set out in full below.  Based on the advice of the Office of the Attorney General, the Department is not in a position to publish the full report.

Speaking upon the occasion of the publication of the General Scheme, Minister Ryan said:

“Following the enactment of the Merchant Shipping (Investigation of Marine Casualties) Act in May 2022, I am happy to be in a position to announce further legislation in the important area of marine accident investigation. I wish to acknowledge the support of the current Marine Casualty Investigation Board for this reform, and I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Board and its members for the valuable work they are continuing to carry out while we transition to the full time Unit – their hard work, integrity and diligence in such an important and sensitive area of activity is very much appreciated.”

Minister Ryan further commented:

“My Department accepts all of the recommendations which are addressed to it in the report completed by Clinchmaritime Ltd. and their publication enables us to advance quickly on the work required to address them.”

Following approval at Cabinet, drafting of a Bill will commence in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General while the General Scheme will also be sent to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communication for pre-legislative scrutiny.

Report Recommendations and Observations

Recommendations

  1. The Board of the MCIB should take urgent action to appoint a Chief Investigator pursuant to section 16 of the Act. This person will have a very strong background in the management of accident investigations, and a good understanding of Ireland’s maritime industry. The post should remain until permanent changes to the structures supporting marine casualty investigation in Ireland, as recommended by this review have been established.
  2. The Minister for Transport should establish a functionally independent Marine Accident Investigation Unit within the Department of Transport. The reporting structure, and staffing model should be in line with that already in place for the AAIU and RAIU.
  3. The Department of Transport should recruit a Chief Inspector designate for the Marine Accident Investigation Unit. This person will have a strong record of leadership, be experienced in the management of accident investigations, and possess a good understanding of Ireland’s maritime industry.
  4. The MCIB should be disbanded once the MAIU is in an operations-ready state.
  5. The Department of Transport should provide suitable office accommodation for the MAIU, separate from its Leeson Lane headquarters, to ensure there is a visible separation between the Department and the Accident Investigation Body.
  6. The Department of Transport should publish on its website a protocol governing the relationship between the Department and the MAIU which should clearly set out how the independence of the AIB is safeguarded.

 

Observations

  1. The Department of Transport may wish to consider co-location of the MAIU, AAIU and RAIU in shared accommodation away from its Leeson Lane headquarters to reinforce its operational separation with the three AIBs and encourage the exploitation of synergies to maximise value for money.
  2. The 2020 Report on the establishment of a National Accident Investigation Authority, and associated draft Heads of legislation, could provide useful guidance should the decision be taken to form a multi-modal accident investigation body in the future. In this respect, the Norwegian Safety Investigation Authority model could be emulated.

Source: Press Release

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