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26 November 2008
The previous Norwegian system whereby maritime casualties were investigated by a judicial maritime inquiry was widely regarded as incapable of uncovering the actual causes of accidents due to its ad hoc nature and the lack of available expertise. A contributing factor was also that the purpose of the investigations was not only to find the causes of casualties in order to promote safety at sea, but also to reveal circumstances that might provide a basis for civil or criminal liability.
The new system, which entered into force on July 1 2008, grants the Norwegian Accident Investigation Board - a professional, independent and permanent body - authority to investigate all maritime casualties that occur within Norwegian jurisdiction and any that occur outside Norwegian jurisdiction but involve Norwegian vessels. The board also has authority to investigate similar accidents within the aviation, railway and road sectors.
The purpose of the board’s investigations is to establish only the course of events and the causes of the casualties in order to promote safety at sea, not to apportion blame or consider any civil or criminal liability. Hence, the Norwegian system now complies with the recommendations found in the International Maritime Organization Code for the Investigation of Marine Casualties and Incidents.
The board has a wide authority to cooperate with foreign states and authorities, including handing over part or all of an investigation to foreign authorities. Foreign states affected by the casualty also have a right to participate in the investigation. The investigation board can request assistance from local police, courts, external experts and other authorities when necessary.
Parties must cooperate with the board upon request and provide all available information and documentation that may be relevant for the investigation without regard to any duty of confidentiality. Statements given to the board may be used only to promote safety at sea. Hence, a statement cannot later be used as evidence in any possible criminal case against the person who gave the statement.
The board also has a duty of confidentiality, but that does not apply to information necessary to explain the cause of the casualty or where it is deemed appropriate to disclose the information due to weighty public interests.
Each investigation results in a report that outlines the course of events and comments on the cause of the casualty. The report may also include recommendations for the prevention of similar accidents in future.
The police will investigate the possible criminal aspects of the casualty simultaneously with the investigation board. Civil liability must be investigated by possible claimants independently or based on the police investigation or on facts revealed in the final report of the board.
For further information please contact Oddbjørn Slinning or Trond Eilertsen or Morten Lund Mathisen or Gaute K Gjelsten at Wikborg Rein by telephone (+47 22 82 75 00) or by fax (+47 22 82 75 01) or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com).
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