Marine accidents and casualties can happen at any time and in any place on the oceans, and expert services that respond to these events are available 24/7. Such companies also typically have offices distributed worldwide in order to enable a rapid response within the early aftermath of an accident. Incidents that require an investigation include vessel collisions, fixed object damage, groundings or danger due to shifting cargo, among other issues.
Initial Response and Support
Marine casualty services respond to accidents in a timely manner by first arranging for their expert surveyors and forensic investigators to attend and report on the initial situation following an incident and offer their immediate support to the captain and crew. These specialists have specific skills in detection, negotiation, communication and organisation.
After an initial appraisal, an estimate of suitable repair methods and their costs is presented. Assessments of salvage cost or wreck removal may also be calculated. In addition, an appraisal is made of the stability of the damaged structure and any salvage dangers that could be encountered during the recovery attempt. Arranging a valuation of damage to the cargo or planning for cargo recovery may be extremely important to the client company.
Alternately, the cargo may become a safety hazard as each cargo has individual properties that react differently when exposed to water, temperature or sunlight. Perhaps more importantly, any risk of pollution, such as oil spills, emissions of toxic gasses and damage to the environment due to the loss of deck cargo, is assessed and the cost of environmental cleanup operations is calculated.
At the same time, marine casualty services mount investigations into the cause of the accident where the collection of evidence is vital; this includes assessing the strength and stability of the original structure and producing a video simulation model of the events that took place during the incident.
Typical investigations may include gauging damage to the main and auxiliary engines and other onboard machinery along with external damage to the hull, propeller and rudder. Some factors that are considered include the handling of the ships prior to the accident; their navigation equipment; meteorological conditions at the time of the incident such as visibility, current, wave height and wind; and the path, speed and angle of the vessel at the time of impact.
As in any other dangerous occupation, personal injury or loss of life may occur during a marine incident. These events need to be handled diplomatically and empathetically. They may require an in-depth investigation in order to determine the circumstances that led up to the accident, particularly addressing the input that any human or engineering factors may have contributed toward the events that took place.
In situations where an accident leads to litigation proceedings, marine casualty services are available to provide expert written and oral evidence at arbitration, court or tribunals.
All of these companies should act with integrity, professionalism and dedication and must be able to demonstrate a history of successful marine casualty investigations.