Despite continued efforts in making safe vessels and the use of advanced equipment including navigation and navigational aids, marine incidents are still occurring, resulting in injuries and property damage and pollution of the marine environment. The importance of investigating incidents is obvious for those involved in the marine industry. The careful, effective and timely study of incidents can lead to an understanding of the causes and origins of marine incidents. Taking corrective actions after identifying these factors through the formulation or revision of rules and guidelines will improve safety and standards in the maritime industry. Therefore, effective and timely review of marine incidents can lead to measures and arrangements for preventing or reducing similar incidents and higher safety factor of seafaring, safety of human life and property, safety and protection of the marine environment and facilities.
The goal of investigating marine incidents
The main goal of investigating marine incidents is to prevent similar marine incidents in the future (with technical and safety perspective), not to identify the guilty parties and the extent of their liability or negligence. Thus, in the study of incidents, identifying the guilty parties is not a duty of the Marine Incident Committee. The review process of marine incidents is performed free from administrative excuses and independent of the alleged, legal, administrative studies and civil crimes.
Legal framework of tasks and activities
In order to comply with international law related to investigating marine incidents, it is essential to consider documents, circulars and resolutions of IMO, in particular Resolution 255 of the Meeting 85 of the Maritime Safety Committee, dated May 16, 2008, as the main framework of activities.
Due to the increasing importance of investigating marine incidents, the IMO combined all previous legislations related to investigating marine incidents and approved Resolution No. 849 in the twentieth meeting on November 27, 1997. Changes and additional information on the said resolution was presented in Resolution No. 884 in the twenty-first meeting in November 1999, with special attention to identifying human factors and developing a uniform approach to address marine incidents. Given Regulation 21 on the twenty-first chapter of the SOLAS and Article 23 of the LOAD LINE 66, Articles 8 and 12 of the International Convention on Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL 73/78) and with regard to the rules of Articles 2 and 94 of United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), on the rights and obligations of coastal and flagged states, the maritime authority of each country is required to investigate incidents of vessels under its flag (in internal, regional and international waters) and report to the IMO. According to these conventions and resolutions, incidents whose investigation makes changes in international and national laws and regulations should also be examined.
Thus, the Deputy of Maritime Affairs on behalf of the PMO, as the maritime authority of the country, in view of the conventions and resolutions of international maritime organization, has reviewed and developed operating instruction to address marine incidents and approved it during the 1674 meeting dated October 10, 2011 by the PMO executive board. After notification to all ports, all maritime accidents investigation committees put the instruction on the agenda.
Duties of maritime accidents investigation committees
1. Investigation of incidents with Iranian-flagged vessels both at home and abroad;
2. Investigation of incidents occurred in waters under the jurisdiction of the Islamic Republic of Iran by foreign-flagged vessels;
3. Investigation of incidents involving foreign-flagged vessels which carry Iranian passengers;
4. Investigation of incidents in which Iran is a stakeholder;
5. Identifying causes and human errors in (potential) marine incidents or events;
6. Recommendations and corrective actions to prevent and reduce marine incidents and events and the necessary follow-up to ensure their implementation;
7. Publishing causes of marine incidents and lessons learned from marine incidents and events to all relevant stakeholders in order to improve safety standards, navigation and protection of the marine environment.
Note: The process of incident investigation is performed only for incidents related to the activity of vessels.
Position of marine incidents committee
The PMO, as the maritime authority (in charge of investigating marine incidents) of the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, as a flag state, port state, coastal state or a stakeholder in marine incidents, investigates marine incidents. If there is another country as a flag state, port state, coastal state or a stakeholder in marine incidents, then the Deputy of Maritime Affairs in the PMO takes necessary measures for the interaction, coordination, communication and selection of the main country and the authority that investigates the marine incident or event.
In this context, parallel with and directed by the marine incidents committee located in the PMO (the office of international specialized agencies), major and minor centers of marine incidents investigation operate in the offices of coastal provinces and subsidiary ports.
The General Directorate of Ports and Maritime of Bushehr Port, as the maritime authority for investigation of marine incidents in the province, investigates incidents occurred in the province by establishing the major committee in Bushehr and the minor committee in Asalooye Port.
Geographic scope covered by General Directorate of Ports and Maritime of Bushehr Province
In relation to the safety of lives and economic and environmental issues, it is very important to investigate incidents aimed at preventing similar incidents in the country. The PMO, as the single marine authority, is responsible for investigating incidents occurred in northern and southern waters of the country. Southern Iran has an 1800-km coastal boundary, about 1200 km of which is located in the Persian Gulf where various vessels travel and complex and varied industrial and marine activities happen. Bushehr Province has a coastline of over 600 km long. Considering estuaries, canals and the borders of islands, the coastline length reaches to about 900 km. Many of the country's oil and gas fields are located in the province offshore. Offshore fields and activities located in Bahregan, Abouzar, Soroush, Doroud, Foroozan, Farsi Block as well as a very large gas field with various activities of South Pars are among offshore activities of the province in the oil and gas sector. In fact, the largest oil and gas export terminals are located in the province. The coastal waters of the province is a traffic zone for the fleet crossing from East Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz to the northwest and west ports, and vice versa. Incidents in the province are very diverse and complex, thus their investigation can be important and useful for the maritime industry.
The General Directorate of Ports and Maritime of Bushehr Province, as the only maritime authority, on behalf of the Deputy of Maritime Affairs of the PMO, investigates the incidents occurred in the provincial waters within the framework of national and international requirements. The geographic scope of activity for the marine incidents committee of Bushehr is determined based on the IMO resolutions in accordance with the coverage scope of the search and rescue coordination and pollution control center of this general directorate.
Obligation to communicate marine incidents
Communication on maritime incidents and events in waters under the jurisdiction must be done properly for all Iranian and foreign vessels in open waters and waters of other countries for flagged vessels as soon as possible by the vessel commanders or owners to the contact points of the person responsible in the General Directorate of Ports and Maritime of Bushehr Province as well as to the maritime traffic control center or the search and rescue coordination center at the nearest port. Otherwise, the reason of failure to communicate is inquired from the relevant authority and the necessary follow-up is done while emphasizing the importance of this issue to the authority.
Obligation to cooperate in the process of investigating marine incidents
The shipping company and the owner and commander of damaged vessel must make maximum cooperation with experts of the marine incidents investigation committee introduced by the port and provide the necessary facilities to carry out their duties.
If the shipping company and the vessel commander and owners do not cooperate with the experts and inspectors of the marine incidents investigation committees, then the vessel is stopped by the ship control and inspection unit in the port and by the maritime patrol in the sea until cooperation occurs. The vessel departure is subject to cooperation within the framework of administrative instruction of the incident investigation.
Shipping companies, owners and commander of the Iranian- and foreign-Iranian flagged vessels are obliged to provide valid and required documents to incident experts. False, invalid and non-confirmed documents affect the quality of investigation, and the provider is responsible for consequences of failing to provide documents or providing false documents.
Collecting documents of seafarers
To gather documents from seafarers for investigation of marine incidents by marine incident experts, the following points are observed:
- Documents must be gathered as soon as possible;
- The seafarer should go back to his vessel or country as soon as possible and be involved in his work;
- The seafarer's human rights must be secured;
In connection with those who are required to provide evidence to assess marine incidents based on the rules of marine incidents and the evidence leads to their legal prosecution, these documents must not be presented to the legal or criminal proceedings as far as possible.
Persons who are required to submit documents are informed in relation to the cause and purpose of this investigation, and their legitimate right to access to a lawyer or legal advisor is reminded in the following cases:
- In case of the possibility of judicial proceedings of these people in pursuance of marine incidents investigations;
- Necessary protection of the seafarer in relation to the lack of conviction or the use of evidence obtained against him and upholding the right to silence in investigations of marine incidents.
Disclosure of documents and records related to marine incident
Records and documents obtained in the incident review process (such as statements, communication, conversations, medical and private information) are deemed confidential and will not be made available to public or irresponsible people.
Some of the documents related to the investigation of marine incidents or events, if necessary, can be disclosed in the following cases:
- To people who are hired as consultants for incident investigation;
- In compliance with the objectives, due to lack of full disclosure of information, the person or group involved in the incident may appear guilty;
- If the disclosure helps identify effective factors in the marine incident;
- Insertion or attachment of some documents in the final report, without manipulation, which is effective in identifying factors and safety analysis of the incident;
- Documentation can be offered to the beneficiary country in the incident, provided that it guarantees to keep the documents secret.
The marine incident investigation aims to use experiences and try to prevent similar incidents in the future. Thus, documents and reports related to incidents, without determining compensation, responsibility or failure of individuals, can be provided to the legal and judicial authorities only in the following cases:
- With senior civilian official statement and by recognizing the significance of its effect on public opinion;
- In suitable conditions, at the discretion of the Deputy of Maritime Affairs of the organization or chairman of major marine incidents investigation committee in the General Directorate of Ports and Maritime of Bushehr Province.
§ The major maritime accidents investigation committee located in the General Directorate of Ports and Maritime of Bushehr Province:
Educational materials and lessons learned from marine incidents investigation
Educational materials related to marine incidents investigation
Analytical and statistical reports of incidents