[Posted on August 1st, 2013 by Bill Stewart]
Accidents happen on land and sea due to neglect, intoxication or bad timing. Investigators on land have skid marks, debris and eye witnesses to give clues as to who was at fault. Accidents on the ocean have few of the elements of an automobile accident. Each year hundreds of incidents at sea are reported to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB); the United States governing office responsible for Marine accident investigation .
Training classes cover the human error factor involved before the accident occurred. Students are trained to interview witnesses and casualties in ways to gather leads as to the cause of the incident. Prospective investigators learn to gather and analyze data from technology and deck operations. They study techniques of mooring and mooring analysis. Understanding water survival and marine specific injuries are learned, as well.
Applicants from all over the World may attend and investigators from other NTSB units. College students can join in order to conduct course research. Classes study maritime accidents and investigate real incidents to further student’s understanding of the cause and measures to take after their conclusions are drawn.
Upon completing the course, students are able to analyze all the data collected, draw to a conclusion the reason the incident happened and prepare a report for official and media sources. The report also presents steps to take for avoiding the same problems in the future.
The accidents turn tragic when lives are lost and the Marine accident investigation then becomes a cautionary tale. When children lose their lives, every aspect of the incident goes under the microscope to insure the same accident will not happen again.
Most recently, investigators found crew members on the Costa Concordia guilty of manslaughter. The ship carried 4000 passengers and crew when it was run onto a reef causing the ship to tip and sink. As a result, 32 people died before rescuers arrived. The investigator’s report gives the sequence of events that caused the ship to run aground. The ship was off course due to inattention by the captain. Once the captain realized the problem, he told the helmsman to adjust the ship’s course. The helmsman, instead, turned the ship in the wrong direction and hit the reef.
The helmsman and four other crew members received sentences of less than three years. The luxury liner’s crisis coordinator was sentenced to two years for not revealing the severity of the accident to media centers which slowed rescue operations. The captain of the ship is being tried separately and is accused of abandoning the ship and all the passengers.
The marine accident investigation into disaster’s such as this bring to light the danger passengers face when a crew becomes complacent. Finding the cause, whether it be human error or catastrophic equipment failure, helps engineers and designers build safer vessels.