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Casualty Investigation Code order by DG Shipping to ensure Justice to Seafarers ?

It may be recalled that Seafarers of India have been turning victim from centuries. The reason is the irregularities by vessels owners, masters, charters, managers, agent Recruitment and Placement Service License ( RPSL ) companies and the lack of interest of Surveyors of DG Shipping, India
Mumbai : Shyam Jagannath, Director General of Shipping has passed 17 Pages order on 08 December 2023 named Casualty Investigation Code and its Applicability and released it on the website of Directorate General of Shipping of India. The order majorly focuses on the role of surveyor, methodology of investigation and documentations. step is taken to strengthen the safety measures and increase transparency in providing justice to the Seafarers and their family. However it is said to be another new document that might be dumped in the file. The DG Shipping, India is said to be dominated by big Blue Economy companies and people. Thus the poorer Seafarers who are trying to grow are being turned victim on the Blue Sea and their voice are gone unheard on the Indian Land.
It may be recalled that Seafarers of India have been turning victim from centuries. The reason is the vessels owners, masters, charters, managers, agent Recruitment and Placement Service License ( RPSL ) companies hardly follows the Conduct, Compliance, Laws and Regulations developed by Indian and International Governing bodies. The role of Surveyors of DG Shipping, India has also been under big question mark. This has left many Seafarers turn physically handicapped and in few cases they have also lost their lives. Moreover there are also many allegations on the DG Shipping, India authorities for supporting the culprits instead of the poor victim Seafarers in a long run. Which has created doubts of the rising level of Corruption in DG Shipping, India.
This order is said to be another new document developed by the DG Shipping, India to portray themselves in front of International bodies as if they care more about the victim Seafarers. One of such case the Maritime News had highlighted, wherein a victim Seafarer Amardeep Singh Dhillon had succumbed. The DG Shipping, India has taken zero action against the culprit Indian RPSL company KSM Navigation Private Limited. The DG Shipping, India has also given a blind eye to the MT Global Falcon ( IMO 9399167 ) vessel owner, Chief Engineer Gurpreet Singh and Master Burinder Franklin. And a deaf ear to the deponent family members of the victim.

Expecting a positive move we try to understand few basics of the order, wherein here is what it states:

1. Whereas, International Convention on Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), 1974, Reg 1/21, requires administration to conduct investigation of any casualty on its ships, where it judges that such an investigation may assist in determining what changes in present regulations might be desirable. Further, it requires administration to inform IMO with pertinent information concerning the findings of such investigations.
2. Whereas, International convention for the prevention of pollution from Ships (MARPOL), 1973, Article 12, requires administration to conduct investigation of any casualty on its ships, if such casualty has produced major deleterious effect upon the marine environment. Further, it requires administration to inform IMO with information concerning the findings of such investigations, when it judges that such information may assist in determining what changes in present convention might be desirable
3. Whereas, United Nations convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLoS), Article 94(7), requires that State shall investigate into every marine casualty or incident of navigation on the high seas which causes loss of life or serious injury to nationals of another states, or serious damage to ships or installation of another states, or serious damage to marine environment.
4. Whereas, International convention on Load Lines, 1966, Art 23, requires administration to conduct investigation of any casualty on its ships, where it judges that such an investigation may assist in determining what changes in present Convention might be desirable. Further, it requires administration to inform IMo with pertinent information concerning the findings of such investigations.
5. Whereas, Maritime Labour convention (MLC), 2006, Regulation 5.1.6, requires member State to conduct an official inquiry into any serious marine casualty, leading to injury or loss of life on its ships. Further, it requires that the final inquiry report shall normally be made public.
6. Whereas, the Casualty Investigation code,2008, come into force through SOLAS X1/6, it endeavors to have consistent approach towards casualty investigations as required under various conventions and also mandates reporting requirements to IMo. Further, it mandates conduct of inquiry into every very serious marine casualty, which is defined as the one involving any death, loss of vessel, or severe damage to the environment.
7. Whereas, the above mentioned Conventions are ratified by India and that the Section 359 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1958, as amended mandates conduct of preliminary inquiry into any shipping casualty as defined in Section 358 Merchant Shipping Act 1958, as amended.
8. In view of the foregoing, it is hereby to state that in-order to enforce the aforesaid requirements pertaining to conduct of investigations under the abovementioned Conventions, which have been ratified by India, the Shipping Casualty as defined in Section 358 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1958, as amended, is to also include casualties under the above mentioned Conventions. Further, it is now mandated that findings and lessons learnt, after the conduct of preliminary inquiry of shipping casualties are to be issued as DGS Circulars and are also to be uploaded on GISIS to comply with reporting requirements to IMO.
9. Preliminary Inquiry are to be conducted by the Surveyor appointed under the Section 9 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1958, and who have knowledge in matters related to the area of the casualty. SOPs for conduct of investigations and inquiries are attached as Annexure – I for compliance. In addition, data bank of marine casualties may be developed, for Identifying developing trends, so that mitigating measure can be taken.
It has shared 4 page 21 points information on the SoP for conduct of Preliminary Inquiry (P.D u/s 359. and Investigation u/s 389 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1958
It has also shared the Format of various notices under the Merchant Shipping Act 1958 including
  • Escape of oil from the grounded/sunk vessel which may cause pollution to Indian waters and Coastline
  • Notice to the master, owner, charterer, operator, agent of the vessel for clean-up of spilled oil etc.
  • Notice to attend Preliminary Inquiry
  • Summon to attend Preliminary Inquiry
  • Draft for Court Case
  • Verification of Records by Designated Officer
  • Letter of authority for verifying the complaint, giving evidence etc
  • Statement of Deponent
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