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Ryan to Undertake "Fundamental Review" of Structures for Marine Investigations

30th January 2021
Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan says he plans a review of how marine accidents are investigated which should take “several months”.

Addressing an Oireachtas Transport and Networks Communications committee on Friday (Jan 29), Mr Ryan said that the the “fundamental review” would be conducted by an independent expert.

The review would examine “the structures in place for marine accident investigation”, how it is structured overseas and how “other modes” are treated in Ireland, he said.

“This is by no means a criticism of the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) and its members past and present, its secretariat or its investigators and the valuable work they have undertaken,” Mr Ryan said

“However, circumstances have changed since the Policy Review Group’s 1998 report and the enactment of the 2000 Act and in light of the European Court of Justice judgment, I consider it to be an opportune time to have such a review,” he said.

“The review will look at how maritime accident investigation is structured overseas and also how other modes are treated in Ireland,” he said.

Last year, the European Court of Justice found that the MCIB was not independent, as its board included the Department of Transport secretary-general, or his or her deputy, and the Marine Survey Office (MSO) chief surveyor.

These two post holders resigned last year.

However, a report to the Oireachtas committee earlier this month by maritime lawyer Michael Kingston said the MCIB was “not fit for purpose”, stating it was under-resourced and had failed to conduct a number of investigations which it was statutorily obliged to.

At Friday’s committee hearing, Mr Ryan rejected a call by Mr Kingston for the immediate establishment of an independent investigation unit into marine accidents with adequate resources.

Mr Kingston, whose father Tim died in the Whiddy Island Betelgeuse explosion in 1979, pointed out a review had already taken place in 1998 with recommendations, and another review would only delay matters.

Mr Kingston said lessons needed to be learned from marine accidents, and this required a properly resourced investigation unit which might cost €350,000.

He said it would be a fraction of the cost of a €50 million annual search and rescue helicopter contract.

His call was supported by Fine Gael TD for Clare Joe Carey, Fianna Fáil senator Timmy Dooley and Green Party TD Steven Matthews who urged Ryan to take more immediate action than commissioning another review which might be “long-fingered”.

Mr Ryan said that he intended to proceed with amendments to the Merchant Shipping (Investigation of Marine Casualties) (Amendment) Bill 2020, which would involve reconstituting the MCIB board.

He said that the 1998 review was no longer sufficient, and further legislation could be introduced after a review took place.

Mr Ryan said the Merchant Shipping (Investigation of Marine Casualties) (Amendment) Bill 2020 should be” viewed as a transitional measure and not a permanent legislative framework for marine accident investigation in the State”.

“Further legislation may be required following completion of the review,” he said.

“Pending the outcome of the Review, it is imperative that the State continues to have a functioning marine investigation body in place,” he said.

Published in MCIB
Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

Email The Author

Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004) on Irish helicopter search and rescue; and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010).

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