The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has published its 112 page annual report for 2017 today. the report in full can be downloaded in pdf format below. Writing in his introduction for the final time after eight years with the Branch, Steve Clinch, Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents, says:
“2017 was a typically busy year for the Branch, not only in terms of its investigation workload but also in respect of its effort to promulgate the safety message, build relationships with stakeholders and train its staff. Included in this report is a selection of the diary entries for MAIB staff, which I hope will provide a flavour of the diverse nature of the work they have been involved with during the year.
There were 1,232 accidents reported (1,190 in 2016) and 21 investigations were started (29 in 2016). The decrease in the number of deployments to marine accidents was due to an unusually quiet start to 2017, which saw MAIB inspectors being deployed on only two occasions between January and April. During May and June there were two further deployments to attend accidents involving UK registered vessels trading in the Arabian Gulf.
Our workload began to increase significantly from 1 July, when the bulk carrier Huayang Endeavour collided with the tanker Seafrontier in the Dover Strait separation scheme. MAIB teams were then deployed on seven occasions up to the end of September and a further nine investigations were launched during the final quarter of 2017. The majority of these accidents occurred in UK waters but my inspectors were also required to deploy overseas to the west coast of the United States (twice), France, South Africa and Australia.
Twenty-six investigation reports, two Safety Digests and one Safety Bulletin were published in 2017. The average time taken to publish our reports was 11.7 months compared with 10.8 months in 2016. However, the period saw the publication of reports on a number of complex investigations. The underlying average for non-complex investigations (i.e. when the Branch does not have to conduct extensive testing, salvage operations or be reliant for its output on the contribution of third parties) was 10.6 months. It remains the collective goal of the Branch to drive down the average time taken to produce its reports to below 10 months.
For the eighth successive year there were no UK merchant vessels of >100gt lost. The overall accident rate for UK merchant vessels >100gt has fallen to 75 per 1, 000 vessels from 78 per 1 000 vessels in 2016. There was no loss of life within the crews of UK merchant vessels >100gt during 2017. Two UK registered small vessels (<100gt), both commercially operated sailing yachts, were lost in 2017. Two small vessels were also lost in 2016. One foreign flag vessel, a French registered sailing yacht, was lost when trading in UK waters and there were two reported deaths of crew working on foreign flag vessels trading in UK waters.
Fifty-six recommendations were issued during 2017 to 62 addressees. 98.4% of the recommendations were accepted. This compares with 90.6% in 2016.
No recommendations were rejected and one recommendation was partially accepted (Rec.2017/151).
Of the 56 recommendations issued between 2007 and 2016 that were accepted but are still open, 36 (64%) of these were addressed to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA). In my last Annual Report I expressed concern at the number of recommendations that had not been closed off by the MCA. Since that time, more effort has been made by the Agency to progress commitments made as long ago as 2007. Better dialogue and more focus on the task has delivered a noticeable improvement in the clear-up rate, which I hope will be maintained.
Six commercial fishing vessels were lost in 2017 compared with 13 in 2016. The loss rate of fishing vessels is the lowest ever recorded by the MAIB, at 0.11% of the fleet. The number of injuries to fishing vessel crew reported to the MAIB in 2017 is also at an alltime low (32). Five fishermen lost their lives in 2017 compared with nine lives lost in 2016.
From the above statistics it might be reasonable to assume that the safety record of commercially operated fishing vessels is improving. The data collected by the MAIB for boats lost is robust and the number lost each year has certainly been reducing. However, there have been concerns expressed that many of the injuries that fishing vessel crew suffer go unreported. To test this, the MAIB examined personal injury data supplied by one insurance provider, the Scottish Boatowners Mutual Insurance Association, covering the period 2008-2016. The data set contained 113 injuries and fatalities, 98 of which were reportable to the MAIB. The MAIB’s data set for the same period held details of all the fatalities (9) but only 13.5% of the reportable injuries to fishing vessel crew recorded by Scottish Boatowners. This would seem to confirm that many accidents that result in personal injury to fishermen do not get reported to the authorities, and it is tempting to conclude that the safety record of the fishing industry may not be improving at all.
My own discussions with members of the fishermen’s associations, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), the Fishing Industry Safety Group (FISG) and the MCA, plus the evidence provided by 176 accidents involving fishing vessels that have been investigated by the MAIB since I joined the Branch in 2004 suggest that the safety record of the UK registered fishing fleet is improving, but very slowly. The glacial nature of the fishing industry’s progress towards improved safety has perhaps been the only source of real disappointment for me during my time as the Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents. There are many organisations and individuals who are working hard to educate fishermen on the benefits of, for example, the wearing of Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) on the open deck, or the basic principles of stability. However, these laudable efforts do not prevent some owners from providing their crews with welfare and working environments that would not be allowed in a UK factory ashore. Excessive working hours, poorly trained crews, inadequate accommodation, dangerous machinery and working practices provide the perfect mix for accidents to occur.
Following a period of consultation, implementation of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Work in Fishing Convention 2007 (ILO 188) into UK Law is expected to be completed by the end of 2017. ILO 188 entitles all fishermen to written terms and conditions of employment (a fisherman’s work agreement), decent accommodation and food, medical care, regulated working time, repatriation, social protection and health and safety on board. It also provides minimum standards relating to medical fitness.
ILO 188 standards will apply to all fishermen working on commercial fishing vessels of any size. They apply equally to employed fishermen and non-employed (share) fishermen, removing a legal impediment that has prevented the application of robust Health and Safety legislation to much of the UK registered fleet. In my view, implementation of this legislation cannot come quickly enough.
This is my last Annual Report. I will leave the MAIB at the end of June after almost 8 years as Chief Inspector and 14 years with the Branch. It has undoubtedly been one of the happiest and most fulfilling periods of a 47-year career in the maritime industry. The MAIB is considered by many to be one of the leading transport safety investigation bodies in the world. This reputation has been hard won and is entirely due to the commitment, effort and enthusiasm of my amazing team, who have never failed to deliver despite the unrelenting grind of working with death and tragedy. I take this opportunity to thank them all for the hard work and support they have given during my watch and I wish them and my successor good fortune for the future”.
Read the MAIB Annual Report in full MAIB-2017-Annual-Report