Despite the major role of waterborne transport in Europe and its achieved efficiency, the safety record of maritime operations over the past 15 years has not been acceptable. A number of incidents and accidents have brought into question the industry's reputation and its public image. The impacts of severe accidents have been significant in terms of both environmental damage and loss of life or injuries to employees. Therefore improving maritime safety has become a top priority for the European Commission.
BERTRANC aimed to help develop a common methodology for investigating maritime accidents and reporting of hazardous incidents, and also to improve the understanding of human factors related to those events.
The main objectives of BERTRANC have been:
- to gain a thorough understanding of the existing safety procedures and methodologies currently employed by Member States;
- to gain an appreciation of whether systems employed by other transport modes could be employed in the maritime sector;
- to implement a common accident reporting methodology agreeable to all Member States;
- to develop a marine version of the Confidential Hazardous Incident Reporting Programme (CHIRP); and
- to identify remedial tools.
- analysed and assessed current working practices and methodologies for accident investigation, which commonly are based on setting up self-standing accident/incident databases;
- identified best practice examples for training of accident investigators - current practice was found to vary considerably between EU Member States;
- identified best practice examples of methodologies for accident investigation - these have been synthesised into a guidelines document, comparing various experts' opinions;
- defined a framework to adopt the aviation sector's Confidential Hazardous Incident Reporting Programme (CHIRP) for maritime accident investigation;
- drafted guideline documents addressing the requirements for accident data gathering and obtaining vessel and traffic statistics;
- specified a pan-European Common Maritime Accident Investigation Methodology, building on a framework for data collection and analysis; and
- identified remedial tools for improving maritime safety, based on the implementation of a positive safety culture, drawing on experience in other transport sectors such as air and rail.
The BERTRANC concerted action has outlined three major tasks for future research. Firstly, a pilot project to test the CHIRP concept has been proposed, focusing on incident reporting rather than just analysing maritime accidents. A further task would develop the training of accident investigators, based on a pilot scheme for an Open Flexible Learning (OFL) approach. Finally, a study has been suggested concentrating on the human factor in maritime and other accidents. The basic idea has been to allow accident investigators to understand and assess the human element, drawing on a database set up to provide the questions for analysis.