Italy’s Costa Concordia investigation report still not released : Lessons cannot be learned until vital information is published - 14/01/2013

Italy’s Costa Concordia investigation report still not released : Lessons cannot be learned until vital information is published

THE Italian Marine Casualty Investigation Central Board, the body charged with the technical investigation into the Costa Concordia casualty, has been roundly criticised for failing to produce a final report within 12 months of the incident.

This highlights the difficulty that the European Commission has faced enforcing its Third Maritime Safety Package, which contains precise rules on organising marine accident investigations.

Investigations now have to be separate from criminal investigations, carried out by an impartial investigative body at member-state level. The country in question must then produce a report on the investigation within a year of the incident.

The requirement has been in force since 2009. However, the commission has already rapped the knuckles of at least six member states for flouting the maritime accident investigation rules.

In late November 2011, it sent reasoned opinions to Austria, Greece and Poland for failing to communicate the measures they were taking. In January 2012, it sent the same message to Belgium, Cyprus and Portugal.

In early 2012 the commission set out the regulatory framework for each European Union member state to create its own independent maritime accident investigation unit.

However, Italy did not have such a unit, which left the responsibility in the case of Costa Concordia with the flag state.

The MCICB claimed that its investigation was delayed due to the prosecuting team seizing important information, including the voyage data recorder.

Italy’s focus on prosecution rather than investigation has been criticised by investigation experts such as John Lang.

He called the delay “the Achilles heel of the passengership industry” and said action must be taken to learn from the mistakes made in the Costa Concordia casualty.

Rear-Adm Lang said that when an accident occurred, it exposed flaws in the way that a vessel was designed, regulated, managed and operated.

“The Italians have a different way of investigating casualties, which involves an emphasis on prosecuting individuals at fault and therefore the technical investigation has been an unknown for a year,” he said.

“I fear the process of beginning by prosecuting deters people from putting the things right that are wrong. People are reluctant to admit any shortcomings for fear of liability. This approach of going for the wrong target puts passengership safety on hold. Failure to find out what really happened is the Achilles heel.”

International Maritime Organization secretary-general Koji Sekimizu also noted the lack of an official investigation report from Italy, at the maritime safety committee in November.

“The international nature of the passengers and crew — with some 70 nationalities involved in the Costa Concordia incident — highlighted the need for an international response, through IMO, to take the appropriate and necessary action in evaluating, developing, and implementing any provisions that might be recommended and needed, following consideration of the outcome of the casualty investigation and any other relevant information,” Mr Sekimizu said.

At the time, the committee called for a clear timetable to consider the need for improvement or modification to the international regulations, based on the outcome of the casualty investigation.

“In this context, the key issue for the credibility of the organisation was the speedy conduct of the casualty investigation by the flag state authority and submission to the organisation of any findings, so that the committee could take the necessary action as soon as possible,” Mr Sekimizu said.

“It is almost a year since the vessel’s grounding and capsize and we are still awaiting the official casualty investigation report.”

Notwithstanding the lack of an official investigation report, Mr Sekimizu said the IMO would now take action based on discussion and decisions at the last committee meeting in May and on information now provided by Italy.

“What is required is to establish operational and management measures robust enough to prevent recurrence of that type of navigation we all saw which resulted in the fatal grounding with rocks,” he said.

“Not to make progress on the pressing issues, simply because of the lack of the official investigation report, would seriously damage the credibility and authority of this organisation.”

However, since the initial grounding of Costa Concordia , the International Chamber of Shipping has advocated that no kneejerk reactions should be taken and that any regulatory responses should be well-founded, justified and address a compelling need.

ICS marine director John Murray said that when Italy provided its interim report in November ICS successfully argued, against extensive regulatory amendments.

“Like others, ICS looks forward to receiving the full accident report and understands that the legal process in Italy has added to the time required,” he said.

“Although ICS maintains its position regarding regulation in this matter it is increasing difficult to achieve this in the face of mounting pressure from those who seek regulation in response to this accident.

“For this reason, ICS urges that every effort is made to release the full accident report so that where appropriate regulations and guidelines can be developed to help prevent a similar tragic accident in future.”

The International Union of Marine Insurance’s IMO liaison officer Andrew Higgs said many important lessons could be learned from the casualty.

“It is therefore unfortunate that the good work of the Italian Coast Guard over the last 12 months has not yet produced a final and published report, although the IMO has already begun to deal with certain short-term issues, based on confidential interim reports already made available to IMO.”

Loss prevention remains at the heart of IUMI’s work. It supports the intention of Mr Sekimizu to address casualty statistics and to reduce the numbers of casualties of cargo and passengerships that occur annually that are arguably preventable.

In dated 14th January 2013