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Marine accidents - know your reporting requirements

Published on: 18 October 2017

MAIB logo

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has published updated guidance on the legal obligation to notify them of marine casualties and marine incidents. British Marine has provided the key requirements below and who falls within scope, along with links to the full document, which includes all the definitions and how to contact the MAIB. We urge all our members to familiarise themselves with the regulations because it is an offence not to report a marine casualty or marine incident or provide the information required without reasonable cause.

The MAIB investigates marine casualties involving UK vessels worldwide and vessels of any flag in UK territorial waters. Its purpose is to help prevent further avoidable accidents from recurring. It does not seek to apportion blame or establish liability. The MAIB is responsible for:

  • Carrying out investigations to determine the causes of accidents at sea
  • Publishing reports that include safety recommendations on improving safety at sea
  • Increasing awareness of how marine accidents happen
  • Improving national and international cooperation in marine accident investigations.

The MAIB’s reports draw attention to lessons learned from marine casualties, to inform the shipping industry, the leisure craft community and the public of those lessons. British Marine works with the MAIB to offer practical industry feedback and support, as well as to aid with the distribution of key safety messages.

The full Marine Guidance Note is available from the MAIB website.

Marine Casualties and Marine Incidents

Who Must Report?

The duty to notify does not apply to:

  • Recreational craft hired on a bareboat basis, or

  • Commercial craft or boats <8m length overall that are operating in a harbour or on an inland waterway, which are not carrying passengers,

    Unless the marine casualty involves an explosion, fire, or capsize of a power driven vessel, or results in death, serious injury or severe pollution.The master / skipper of a UK ship must notify the MAIB of any marine casualty or marine incident (see what to report below)

The following must report:

  • The master / skipper of any ship must notify the MAIB of any marine casualty or marine incident if:
    • the ship is within UK waters and carrying passengers to / from the UK, or
    • the marine casualty or marine incident occurs within the jurisdiction of a UK harbour master
  • The ship’s owner must notify the MAIB of any marine casualty or marine incident, unless s/he is satisfied that the master / skipper or senior surviving officer has made the report.

In addition to the above, the following must notify the MAIB of any marine casualty or marine incident, if it occurs in their area of responsibility:

  • Harbour authorities, for occurrences in or adjacent to their harbour area
  • The person, authority or body having responsibility for an inland waterway
  • An official of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), for all occurrences in UK waters

What to Report?

It is a legal requirement that any marine casualty or marine incident is notified to the MAIB. Any notification made to the MAIB does not remove any obligation to notify other organisations.

A marine casualty is an event or sequence of events that occurred directly in connection with the operation of a ship, and resulted in:

  • The death of, or serious injury to, a person
  • The loss of a person from a ship
  • The loss, presumed loss or abandonment of a ship
  • Material damage to a ship
  • The ship being unfit to proceed, or requires flag state approval or a condition of class before it may proceed
  • At sea, a breakdown of the ship, requiring towage
  • The stranding or disabling of a ship, or the involvement of a ship in a collision
  • Material damage to marine infrastructure external of a ship that could seriously endanger the safety of the ship, another ship or any individual
  • Pollution, caused by damage to a ship or ships

Examples of marine incidents include:

  • Close-quarters situations where urgent action was required to avoid collision
  • Any event that had the potential to result in a serious injury
  • A fire that did not result in material damage
  • An unintended temporary grounding on soft mud, where there was no risk of stranding or material damage
  • A person overboard who was recovered without serious injury
  • Snagging of fishing gear resulting in a dangerous heel

There is no requirement to report:

  • Defects to equipment and vessel detentions, unless they are related to a marine casualty or marine incident
  • Injuries to passengers that did not result from activities connected with the operation of the vessel. For example: a passenger suffering a fall on board a ship,
    where the ship’s movement, design, or acts or omissions by crew were not contributing factors
  • Damage or injuries occurring ashore, including the quayside, which do not involve the ship’s equipment.

All marine casualties and marine incidents must be notified to the MAIB as soon as practicable by the quickest means available. This may be done via the MAIB’s 24 hour accident reporting line: +44 (0)23 8023 2527 or by using the MAIB’s Accident Report Form (ARF), which is available on the Branch’s website: