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Types of Marine Accident Investigation Carried Out by Marine Department

Investigation into marine accident (Under Caps. 281, 313, and 548)

Investigations into marine accidents occurring to or on board vessels inside the waters of Hong Kong and Hong Kong registered vessels anywhere in the world are carried out by the MAISSPB1 . The Chief of MAISSPB will approve the investigation reports into less serious accidents. For serious and very serious accidents, the Director of Marine (DM) will determine if a review panel should be formed to study the conclusions and recommendations made in the reports prior to his final approval of the reports. Upon approval of the report, the MAISSPB will inform the divisions concerned of the recommendations so that they may take the necessary follow-up actions within their respective ambit for vessels registered / licensed in Hong Kong. In the case of a foreign-flagged vessel, the relevant flag administration will be provided with a copy of the report for information. The summary together with lessons learnt and the full investigation report will be uploaded to the Marine Department web-site when all legal proceedings of the case are cleared.

Preliminary Inquiry (PI) (Under Cap. 281)

In the case of a very serious accident occurring to or on board a Hong Kong registered ship, the DM may order a PI into the incident. He will appoint one or more professional officer(s) to conduct the investigation. The PI report completed by the appointed officer(s) will be submitted to the STH2 along with the DM's observations including proposed Director's action plan and a recommendation on whether or not a Marine Court is warranted. The STH may accept / reject part or whole of the report’s findings / recommendations. The Marine Department (MD) will then take follow-up action. If a Marine Court is not ordered and there are no on-going legal proceedings on the case, the summary together with lessons learnt and the full PI report will be uploaded to the MD web-site.

*The CE3 may order a Marine Court if warranted by the seriousness of the case, public interest, etc.. The hearing will be conducted by a judicial officer who is assisted by assessors. The Marine Court will make report to the CE. The Marine Court can suspend or cancel a certificate of competency of the seafarer concerned. The CE may approve publication of reports** and may accept/reject the findings/recommendations of the Marine Court. Procedures for re-hearing and appeal are provided for.

Preliminary Inquiry (PI) (Pilotage) (Under Cap. 84)

For incidents involving pilotage in Hong Kong waters, the PA4 may, in the case of minor incidents, appoint a BOD5 , or in the case of more serious incidents, order a PI under the Pilotage Ordinance. The BOD may recommend a caution, written warning or written reprimand or downgrading of the pilot's licence for a period upto 12 months. Alternatively, the board may recommend that a PI should be ordered. After receiving the BOD's recommendation or the PI report, the PA, in consultation with the Department of Justice (DoJ) as appropriate, will decide on further action to be taken, which, may include appointment of a BOI6 to further investigate the incident.

*The BOI is chaired by either a legal officer nominated by the DoJ or a judicial officer nominated by the Chief Judge of the High Court. He / she is assisted by two members of the Pilotage Advisory Committee. The Board submits its report to the PA and may make a recommendation on suspension or cancellation of a pilot's licence. The PA makes the final decisions on the BOI's recommendations and decides whether the report should be published**. A licensed pilot whose licence has been dealt with may appeal against the decision to a judge.

*Inquiry into Fitness or Conduct of Masters and Officers (Cap. 478)

The DM may cause an inquiry to be held into the conduct of a Hong Kong certificated / licensed officer with regard to unfitness, misconduct, incompetence or negligence whether or not an accident has occurred (such an inquiry will not be held if a Marine Court is established to investigate a related accident). A judicial officer appointed by the Chief Justice will conduct the inquiry with one or two assessors. The person conducting the inquiry may cancel or suspend a certificate of competency / licence or censure its holder. A report shall be made to the DM**. Appeals may be made to the Court of First Instance of the High Court.

* Inquiries conducted by an independent body and the hearings are in public

** The reports are published as public documents


1 Marine Accident Investigation and Shipping Security Policy Branch

2 Secretary for Transport and Housing

3 Chief Executive

4 Pilotage Authority

5 Board of Discipline

6 Board of Investigation