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21 June 2006
Before the end of next year the Accident Investigation Board will be granted authority to investigate accidents at sea in addition to accidents within the aviation, railway and road sectors. The new legislation on the investigation of accidents at sea has already been passed, but has not yet entered into force. The new rules focus on establishing the course of events in order to promote safety at sea; the purpose of the investigations is not to apportion blame and liability. The new rules include:
Duty to notify
The new legislation introduces a general duty for 'anyone' who witnesses an accident at sea, or who notices a wreckage or other conditions that give reason to believe that an accident at sea has occurred, to notify the authorities. Shipmasters and shipowners bear a heavier burden to fulfil this duty of notification.
Testimonies and other evidence
The new rules impose an extensive general duty to offer testimony and share documents with the authorities. 'Everyone' has a duty to provide all relevant information, "regardless of duties of confidentiality". Parties providing such information are entitled to be represented by an attorney or other representative through the course of the proceedings.
Limited use of testimonies
The investigation board can use testimonies only in order to promote safety at sea. Therefore, testimonies cannot be used as evidence in a possible criminal case against the person offering the testimony. However, testimonies can be used as evidence in criminal cases against any other individuals. Thus, testimony given by an officer cannot be used in a possible criminal case against that officer, but can be used as evidence in a possible criminal case against the captain.
The investigation board has an extensive duty of confidentiality in the conduct of its business, with some important exceptions. The duty of confidentiality is outweighed by "weighty public interest" or if the information is "necessary to explain the cause of the accident properly".
New prohibition against removal of wreckage
Under the new rules, removal of wreckage or other material without the prior consent of the investigation board or police authorities is prohibited. The only exception is where the object would be lost unless removed immediately.
The investigation board is an independent investigation body with the authority to:
An investigation shall conclude with a report outlining the course of events and causal relations, and making recommendations on improved safety at sea. A draft report shall be prepared and sent for consultation to the interested parties before a final report is written and published.
For further information please contact Geir Ove Røberg or Gaute Gjelsten or Trond Eilertsen at Wikborg, Rein & Co 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).
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