How to Drive Maritime Accident Investigations? Which Is the Regulation That Governs Them?
Legal status and the conduct of maritime technical
Technical investigations after an accident or incident are not intended to determine the responsibilities involved and the search for the culprits, but the search for facts that contributed to an accident and identify the various areas or measures that must be the subject.
SOLAS Convention provides that " Administration shall investigate an accident involving a vessel flying its flag, if such an investigation could assist in identifying regulatory problems that would have played a role in the accident". In the SOLAS Convention of 1960 and 1974 as amended, this provision was maintained and it was also taken up in the 1966 International Load Line Convention.
According to the current Code of investigations, the conduct of investigation by the flag State is recommended in the case of accident or incident when it is likely to provide information that may help to prevent this type of accident. An event whose purpose is to improve maritime safety. As well as Annex IV of the MARPOL Convention, in particular in Articles 8 and 12, it also has an investigative obligation to the competent authorities of each Member State following an accident at sea.
Cooperation between technical and judicial investigations
Investigations are initiated following a large-scale accident or sea incident. In such investigation, we distinguish two parts: a technical investigation and another called judicial, the first seeks facts that contributed to an accident against, the second seeks to determine the responsibilities involved. Cooperation between technical and judicial investigations is very important because they analyze the same events but pursue different objectives.
Technical investigators can access and benefit all information collected by judicial services, even if they are covered by professional secrets or instruction.
When an investigation is opened, the recording devices seized by the judicial authority shall, at their request, be made available to technical investigators who take a copy. The latter proceeds to the sampling to carry out examinations or analyzes, debris, fluids, parts, organs, assemblies or mechanisms which they consider necessary and contributing to the determination of the circumstances and the causes of the sea event, the accident or incident. This is done under the supervision of a judicial police officer and with the agreement, as the case may be, of the public prosecutor or the investigating judge.
However, they may not submit the indexes that have been seized to examinations or analyzes that may modify, alter or destroy them without the agreement of the judicial authority. Technical investigators shall be informed of the expert appraisals conducted by the competent judicial authority and shall be entitled to attend and exploit the findings made in connection with these operations for the purposes of the technical investigation.
Moreover, cooperation between technical and judicial investigators is therefore simultaneously informative and operational. This cooperation should, however, be analyzed only in the light of the respective purposes of the investigations. As regards the deadlines, the technical inquiry must be made as soon as possible in response to a need for prevention, whereas, the judicial investigation must allow the determination of the responsibilities, for that it is not limited by a delay and may take a long time depending on the case. These two types of surveys are thus endowed with different probative values.
The technical inquiry ,however, does not have the same probative value as forensic expertise, but, generally has the same probative value because of the publicity and media coverage of the technical conclusions of the investigation.
In addition, technical investigators have a right of meeting with any person directly or indirectly related to the accident or incident. However, this power of encounter carries some reservations. In addition, technical investigators may be held criminally liable, in particular for breach of professional secrecy.
Cooperation between States in conducting the investigation
In general rule, the investigation following a sea event is directed by a single State, but exceptionally there may be multistate investigations in parallel. Under Chapter 9 of the current IMO Investigation Code, a State with interests at stake may conduct its own investigation and coordinate the planning of investigations to avoid, to the extent conflicting requests to hear witnesses and access to evidence. In addition, under Chapter 10 of the IMO (Investigations code).
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