Under Bailiwick of Guernsey Law, there is a requirement to examine and investigate all types of marine accidents to or on board Guernsey vessels worldwide, and other vessels in Bailiwick territorial waters, including Sark and Alderney.
As far as the regulations are concerned, the sole objective of investigating an accident is to determine its circumstances and causes, with the aim of improving the safety of life at sea and the avoidance of accidents in the future. It is not the purpose to apportion liability, nor, except so far as is necessary to achieve the fundamental purpose, to apportion blame.
The Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents is an independent statutory official and can call upon a number of accident investigators. All are professionally qualified and experienced in the nautical, engineering, naval architecture and/or fishing disciplines of the marine industry.
The powers of Accident Investigation Inspectors, and the framework for reporting and investigating accidents, are set out in the Merchant Shipping (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Law 2002. The Merchant Shipping (Accident and Reporting) (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Regulations 2009 put the framework into effect. These regulations apply to merchant ships, fishing vessels and (with some exceptions) pleasure craft. They define accidents, set out the purpose of investigations and lay down the requirements for reporting accidents. They make provision for the ordering, notification and conduct of investigations, but allow inspectors a good deal of discretion - necessary, given the wide variety of cases.
What is an accident?
An accident is an undesired event that results in personal injury, damage or loss. Accidents include loss of life or major injury to any person on board, or when a person is lost from a vessel; the actual or presumed loss of a vessel, her abandonment or material damage to her; collision or grounding, disablement, and also material damage caused by a vessel.
An accident can also be an occurrence such as the collapse of lifting gear, an unintended movement of cargo or ballast sufficient to cause a list, a loss of cargo overboard or a snagging of fishing gear which results in the vessel heeling to a dangerous angle, if the occurrence could have caused serious injury or damage to the health of any person. It is the duty of every master or skipper to examine any accident occurring to, or on board, his/her vessel.
What is a major injury?
A major injury includes any fracture to, or loss of, a limb, loss of sight, or any other injury requiring resuscitation or leading to hypothermia or admittance to a hospital or other medical facility for more than 24 hours.
What is a serious injury?
A serious injury is an injury, other than a major injury, when the injured person is incapacitated for more than three consecutive days.
What is a hazardous incident?
A hazardous incident is when an accident nearly occurs in connection with the operation of a vessel. In other words, it is what is often known as a "near miss".
Accidents, including major injuries, must be reported to the Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents (CIMA) by the quickest possible means. This is so they can be investigated immediately, before vital evidence decays, is removed or is lost. Serious injuries must be investigated by the vessel's master and owner, and the findings reported to the CIMA within 14 days. Hazardous incidents don't have to be reported, but the CIMA encourages owners, masters and skippers to report them. Hazardous incidents often teach us lessons that are every bit as relevant as those arising from accidents.
Accidents can be reported to Guernsey Harbours on 01481 720229, or outside office hours on 01481 720481, or directly via Guernsey Coastguard or Guernsey Port Control, which is open 24 hours a day. Reports are referred to an inspector for a decision on what action to take. In some cases the initial report contains all the information that is needed. In others, the inspector will conduct further enquiries, make a preliminary examination, or complete a full investigation.
The administrative enquiry
In some cases, the ship's owner's or officers' own investigation will be sufficient. However, the Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents may conduct an administrative enquiry by correspondence and telephone to seek further details on any accident. The Regulations require owners, masters and other relevant people or organisations to provide any such information when requested.
Preliminary Examination and Full Investigation
Following notification of an accident, inspectors will start to collect evidence and the decision whether or not to conduct a preliminary examination (PE) will be made. A PE is the first stage of a full investigation, and identifies the causes and circumstances of an accident to see if they meet the criteria required to warrant further investigation and a publicly available report.
If it is decided as a result of the PE that the criteria have not been met, the Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents will not continue the investigation and all involved parties will be notified. Every effort is made to examine a wide range of accidents each year.
All PEs and accident investigations seek answers to four basic questions:
- What happened?
- How did it happen?
- Why did it happen?
- What can be done to prevent it happening again?
Once the decision to proceed has been made, all available evidence is gathered. No two cases are ever the same, and the process may take different forms. Inspectors will usually wish to see logbooks, charts and other documents. They will invariably interview those who may be able to shed light on what happened and are likely to take photographs and examine computer records. If the vessel contains a 'black box', the data will be removed and examined.
Inspectors consider evidence from as many sources as possible. If necessary, they will call in technical experts from outside the Branch. Particular emphasis is placed on identifying human factors in the causes of an accident. The Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents is not responsible for recovering bodies.
In very general terms, it can take up to a year to complete an investigation and publish a report. At first sight this might seem a long time, but it may be necessary to interview a wide range of individuals, cross-check evidence, examine suspect equipment and consult with technical experts. Often the true cause of an accident turns out to be very different from the convenient solution identified by people who are not accident investigators. A full investigation or PE is entirely independent of any enquiries made by the police or other authority collecting evidence for a possible prosecution.
The Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents aims to improve safety for all those who work at, or travel by, sea. The investigation findings almost always lead to recommendations aimed at preventing similar accidents. If a decision has been made to fully investigate an accident, the Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents will make the results publicly available in a full report. The accident investigation report is not written with liability in mind and is not intended to be used in court for the purpose of litigation. It endeavours to identify and analyse the relevant safety issues pertaining to the specific accident, and to make recommendations aimed at preventing similar accidents in the future.
From time to time, the Chief Inspector may publish a report highlighting, for example, specific safety problems, safety trends, or any other issues he feels should be brought to the attention of the maritime community and the public. The Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents produces an Annual Report which describes what he has done over the past year.
The Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents is very conscious of the hurt and bewilderment that a marine accident causes to the families of victims. Inspectors make every effort to contact next of kin after an accident to explain their role. Once the investigation is complete, we give the next of kin our conclusions before we make them publicly available.
For further information about the Accident Investigation or for information about specific accidents, contact the Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents at the address below:
The Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents
c/o Guernsey Harbours
P.O. Box 631
St Julian's Emplacement
St Peter Port
Guernsey, Channel Islands
Telephone: 01481 720229
Fax: 01481 714177
Report an accident
24 hour telephone number: 01481 720481. In order to report an accident or incident please download and print the form below and return to the Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents.
The UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch examines and investigates all types of marine accidents to or on board UK ships worldwide, and other ships in UK territorial waters.
Marine Accident Reports
The following preliminary examinations have been completed. Having considered all the evidence in each case, the Chief Inspector has decided that there are no other safety issues to be learnt from the accident which require further investigation and publication of a report, or that an investigation by the relevant Flag State would be more appropriate.
The UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) is a part of the UK Department for Transport. The Bailiwick of Guernsey has an agreement with the MAIB whereby the Bailiwick may call upon the MAIB to investigate more complicated incidents, in Bailiwick waters, that may exceed the limits of local resources.
Grounding of passenger ferry TRIDENT 08 June 2016 [1Mb]
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Trident V grounding - 22 April 2016 [1Mb]
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CIMA Incidents & Reports 2014 [249kb]
Trident V collision - 24 August 2014 [308kb]
Commodore Clipper Grounding - 14th July 2014 [12Mb]
Lady Helen S explosion - 17 June 2014 [234kb]
Commodore Goodwill contact - 6 February 2013 [84kb]
Huelin Dispatch MCIB report - 21 September 2012 [3Mb]
Sigas Champion contact - 5 December 2009 [48kb]
Victor Hugo grounding - 13 September 2009 [85kb]
Wreck & Salvage
How to recognise a wreck or wreck material and what to do if you discover it.
The important thing to note is that the ownership of wreck material lies with the States of Guernsey; not the finder. The Receiver of Wreck will investigate ownership once the wreck has been reported.
What is a wreck?
The term 'wreck' includes the following three categories:
- Major Wreck (Vessels) - This includes vessels which are wrecked, sunk, abandoned, derelict, stranded or in distress.
- Minor Wreck (Cargo) - This includes cargo which is currently or previously contained, carried or belonging to a vessel.
- Historic Wreck - This includes and wrecked vessel or cargo which has been wrecked for 50 years or more.
What do I do with a wreck?
The Wreck and Salvage Law, 1986, makes it clear that you should report any wreck materials found within three miles of the Guernsey Shoreline to the Receiver of Wreck. If you do not report any given wreck to the Receiver of Wreck it can result in a fine. Please download the form below or contact Receiver of Wreck for more information.
The Guernsey Receiver of wreck is:
Mr Adrian Lewis
Receiver of Wreck
Sir Charles Frossard House
PO Box 43
St Peter Port
Tel: +44 (0) 1481 717000
Fax: +44 (0) 1481 725887
What do I do if I live in Alderney or Sark?
The Wreck and Salvage Law also applies to both Alderney and Sark who have their own Receiver of Wrecks. You should contact the following if you find a wreck in either Alderney or Sark:
Receiver of Wreck
Tel: +44 (0) 1481 822816
Fax: +44 (0) 1481 824447
Mr John Carre
Receiver of Wreck
Tel: +44 (0) 1481 832000
Fax: +44 (0) 1481 832427