Es la semana de las comisiones de investigación, ahora desde el NTSB tiran con bala a los del USCG.

27 May 2008 Lloyds List
THE US National Transportation Safety Board is demanding an enhancement of its authority to give it “lead or primary status” at the expense of the US Coast Guard in the prosecution of marine casualty investigations.

This would enshrine through legislation what is an informal process between the two agencies on investigations into marine accidents.

NTSB board member Kathryn Higgins voiced this request at a hearing before the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Sub-committee of the US House of Representatives’ Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Ms Higgins suggested that in the immediate aftermath of a marine casualty there is often “paralysis” between the NTSB and the USCG, “created by a disagreement over interpretation of the regulations they have jointly issued”.

By way of example, she described “friction” in decision-making after the Cosco Busan casualty in San Francisco Bay last November. The USCG erred in the Cosco Busan matter by taking “unilateral actions in attempting to release information without consulting with the NTSB”, Ms Higgins said.

She also criticised the USCG for making public statements that “went beyond issues related to spill clean-up and included premature conclusions about the cause of the accident”.

Ms Higgins wants Congress to bestow upon the NTSB the ability to “elect” to take the leadership role, to mitigate confusion such as that following the Cosco Busan casualty.

This would amount to a “modest change and needed clarification” rather than an outright expansion of the board’s authority, Ms Higgins said. Such a change would also be consistent with the NTSB’s international counterparts, she added.

The House sub-committee hearing came at a testing time for the USCG, as the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General simultaneously released its report on the US Coast Guard marine casualty investigation programme.

The report stated: “The majority of USCG personnel conducting marine casualty investigations are not qualified to conduct investigations, and the resources for the review and closure process of investigations are inadequate, resulting in a substantial backlog at USCG headquarters.”

These pressures may have caused the USCG to “downgrade” incidents to reduce the workload, the report hinted.

Ms Higgins’ testimony addressed the issue of under-qualified or non-qualified personnel, as she highlighted her own agency’s skills.

“While we have a small staff. our investigators collectively have decades of experience and have ably handled some very complicated scenarios,” she told lawmakers.

The OIG report has recognised as “best practice” the systems prevalent in Australia, Britain and Canada, where NTSB counterparts are vested with the task of maritime safety without assigning fault.

The USCG has already acknowledged several of the recommendations contained in the OIG report. One element of the plan calls for extra marine inspectors to be hired through legislative mandate.

USCG commandant Thad Allen used a National Maritime Day address in Baltimore lsat week to underline his agency’s willingness to examine ways in which its safety programme could be enhanced.

Adm Allen unveiled a Marine Safety Performance Plan, which will be available for public comment for two months.

Programmatic improvements are designed to make the USCG safety programme “the model of effectiveness and efficiency that other maritime nations will seek to emulate”, Adm Allen said.

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