When a serious accident occurs, intensive work starts immediately at the IMO to discover how and why the accident occurred. A number of working groups are then appointed with the task of either making new rules or changing existing rules to prevent the same accident from recurring, without, of course, causing excessive shipping costs. These working groups are often supplemented by the flag state affected by the accident, which may want to clear the reputation of its flag with regard to non-existent, unclear or ineffective rules. This work may result in changes to regulations within a few years only. Accidents or incidents that do not result in environmental impact or major loss of life may be given a separate item on the agenda. A correspondence group is appointed and positive proposals are mixed with fears that the issue has not been investigated thoroughly enough, and that there could be a risk of creating rules which may have unforeseen consequences. This procedure can sometimes continue for many years and is only speeded up if a similar accident occurs during work in progress. It takes even longer to introduce rules on preventive maritime safety work in the IMO. When ITF or IFSMA, the organisations that represent seafarers, draw attention to incidents or accidents resulting in injuries to seafarers and want to tighten up the rules, this is usually opposed by some states with colourful flags. These flag states are often found on the ITF list of FOC, Flags Of Convenience, and generally confirm our prejudices. There are some exceptions: on many occasions the Bahamas and the Marshall Islands have both come up with proposals and supported others’ proposals concerning seafarers’ well-being with regard to the work environment and safety. This year’s SAN conference has the theme ”When an accident has happened”. Let us try to prevent accidents and continue the work where Sweden was once a world-leader in preventive maritime safety. This demands that Sweden continues with, develops and collaborates in research projects in the areas of work environment, ergonomics and safety at sea. Since special national rules are generally disappearing, there is a need for scientific reports that can provide support for a number of interested delegations within the IMO to develop international rules.
Mikael Huss/Marine Officers’ Association