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August 6, 2010

U.K. MAIB pulls plug on Safety Digest

The U.K.'s Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has put publication of its latest Safety Digest on hold.

The Safety Digest is a valuable "lessons learned" publication that summarizes the events leading to accidents, without naming names or assigning blame.

Today, MAIB issued the following statement:

Regrettably, Safety Digest 2/2010, due to be published on 1 August, has been postponed until further notice.

Over the past 8 years, in a spirit of mutual co-operation on safety matters, there has been an understanding by which the media has respected the need not to identify individuals or organizations in the MAIB's Safety Digest. Unfortunately, despite entreaties, one newspaper decided to try to identify ships and companies referred to, but not named, in the Chief Inspector's introduction to the last Safety Digest. It then 'named and shamed' the companies that the paper thought were involved, regardless of the safety consequences of so doing. The editor justified his actions by stating that "our job as the press is to shed light where public officials are unable or unwilling to do so. Having put the facts into public record, you cannot in a free society control how the press pursues the exposure of those facts." In these circumstances the MAIB has to assume that anyone written about in a Safety Digest could in future be named in the press.

The MAIB has a legal obligation, laid down in its Regulations, to consult with any "person who, or organisation which, could be adversely affected by the report", and to take into account any representations made. Therefore, unless the MAIB can find a novel means of ensuring that the subjects of the Safety Digest remain anonymous, there appears to be no option but to undertake a major consultation exercise on each case in future Safety Digests. The increased resource implications and inevitable diminution of the key safety messages this process will cause, may make future publication of the Safety Digest unsustainable.

We apologize for the loss of this invaluable safety tool, but are attempting to find a way to resolve this predicament.

One newspaper that has disclosed the information kept confidential by the MAIB Safety Digest is Lloyd's List, which did so in a story published June 25.

For an example of the type of valuable information we are now all losing out on, you can access the most recently published Safety Digest HERE


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