Posted on | August 20, 2013 | 1 Comment
There are some very strange customs go on in the world masquerading as marine casualty investigation. Some flag states just don’t bother, of course, lacking the ability to do anything very much other than collect registration fees. Some are plain useless, or unduly secretive, believing that they should keep these matters to themselves and never promulgating their findings to the wider world.
Some are rather parochial, the authority for investigation being some local body, like a harbourmaster or magistrate, which is not the best method of getting to the bottom of some technically complex case. Some combine the investigation with a criminal trial of those involved, which may not be the best method of speedily elucidating the sequence of events from all the witnesses, and certainly not from those in the dock.
Some flag states employ independent and expert investigators, who may be employed for that particular case, or may be professionals employed by the state, although not part of it and able, if necessary, to pronounce on their paymasters.
How do you build up expertise in this field, which is quite specialist and far more complex than was once believed, when a gaggle of old shipmasters would sit around a table and ask searching questions of some wretched chap who had run a ship aground? It is no longer acceptable to dismiss a case as “human error” or a “navigational mistake” or “mechanical failure”. Proper investigation demands a close study of causation and all the strands which might have coincided in that casualty.
An excellent primer for the casualty investigator, and indeed anyone wishing to learn about this important profession has been written by the distinguished US naval architect and former mariner Charles R Cushing. Charles has for very many years been an adjunct Professor at the World Maritime University, where his lectures are truly inspirational, and this book – “Marine Casualty Safety Investigation” – has its basis in some of these lectures. “Safety investigations”, he notes, “are no-blame processes and therefore differ from civil and criminal investigations”. My goodness, that needs emphasising!
This is a concise and very readable book, the author acknowledging the work of the US NTSB and the UK MAIB as important sources, along with IMO guidelines and the Casualty Investigation Code. The various sections are interspersed with some of the more notorious marine casualties, which themselves can produce important lessons. The first is the “Raft of the Medusa”, the explanation of which throws completely new light on this famous painting. The last is the most awful peacetime accident of all – the Dona Paz – prefacing a number of important conclusions that the author has come to in the writing of the book and throughout a long and distinguished career. It’s a practical book for a practical business. Details from: firstname.lastname@example.org