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Marine Casualty Investigation

The objective of any Marine Casualty Investigation is the prevention of further similar casualties by discovering the reason behind the casualty and then promulgating actions, information and recommendations where appropriate with a view to preventing similar casualties.

Under United Nations Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982 Article 94 -A flag state shall cause an inquiry to be held by or before a suitably qualified person or persons into certain casualties or incidents of navigation on the High seas.

UNCLOS article 2 recognizes that where a casualty occurs within the territorial sea or internal waters of a state, that state has a right to investigate the cause of any such casualty which might pose a risk to life or to the environment, involve the Coastal States search and rescue authorities, or otherwise affect the coastal state.

The Merchant Shipping Act 2007 in Part XXIX – Investigations and inquires into shipping casualties.

The Minister may appoint a fit and proper person to hold a preliminary inquiry after the incidence.

The Minister may from time to time by order constitute a Board to make formal investigations into any casualty in respect of which reports have been submitted to the Minister.

The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency Act (NIMASA) 2007 Part XI Section 49(i) –The Director General shall set up a Marine Casualty Investigation Committee to identify reasons for the casualty and develop measures for the prevention of marine casualties.

Examine and investigate all types of marine accidents to or onboard Nigerian ships worldwide and other ships in the Nigerian territorial waters.

An accident, major or serious injury or Hazardous Incident should be reported to the Agency and such is investigated. Accidents should be reported by the quickest means possible and the Agency has dedicated special accident reporting lines for this purpose. This is so they can be investigated immediately before vital evidence decays, is removed or is lost.

A preliminary investigation is the first step taken by the Agency to all reported incidences. All available evidence is gathered through interviews, etc.

Visit to the logbooks and other documents. Evidence from many other sources are considered i.e. technical experts, use of divers, etc.

Agency’s investigation is entirely independent of any enquires made by the police or other authority collecting evidence for a possible prosecution.

A formal report of accidents fully investigated is made available to the public. The full reports are also submitted to IMO Headquarters as required by Law.

The Agency is in the process of establishing a computerized database of reportable marine accidents which have occurred within the past few years.