When accidents or calamities occur in the Netherlands, the Dutch Safety Board (“ the Board”) has a mandate to investigate on board, identifying the cause of these incidents and advising on appropriate measures to improve safety in the sector. The Safety Board has jurisdiction on any matters within the Netherlands, but it is important for non-Dutch shipowners and persons to be aware that the jurisdiction extends to foreign vessels where the incident arises within the borders of the Netherlands.
A recent incident which illustrates the scope of the Board’s mandate is the incident on board of the “NCC SAFA”, a chemical tanker which was berthed in the port of IJmuiden. On 20 April 2022 the Saudi Arabian flagged vessel was in the process of preparing the tanks to load a consignment of gas oil in the port of Amsterdam, during which the tanks had to be filled with an inert gas and subjected to a visual inspection. An able bodied seaman was instructed to conduct the inspection but when the master attempted to contact him via the walkie-talkie, he did not receive a response. The Captain immediately instructed the Chief Officer to investigate into the matter. The Chief Officer proceeded to enter the front tanks where the AB had been instructed to inspect. When the Captain was unable to reach the Chief Officer, the crew went to investigate. They found the Chief Officer on the fourth platform of the forward tank apparently after he had become unwell and fallen around 18 meters in the tank. Whilst the AB was brought to the hospital with serious injuries, the Chief Officer unfortunately passed away. The Board came to the conclusion that both seafarers had been overcome by a lack of oxygen, which had occured because the necessary safety procedures had not been followed and neither seafarer had been carrying a gas meter. We refer to the report of the Safety Board available on their website (www.onderzoeksraad.nl/en/page/20522/dodelijk-ongeval-in-ladingtank-van-chemicaliëntanker).
We note that an incident of this nature involves a number of procedures and steps which foreign shipowners will not be familiar withand which should be kept in mind when anysuch incident occurs. The Board will seek to investigate the matter on board, take formalstatements from the crew and has the authority to demand disclosure of documents and data on board. In addition to this, the port authorities or police may instigate their own investigation. We also note that in our experience the findings of the Board may be of particular importance in any civil proceedings that might be initiated by the crewmembers or their families. There is also the chance of administrative or criminal proceedings being brought against the vessel (owners, charterers) or crew.
We recommend that shipowners and Clubs immediately notify their correspondent whenever an incident occurs which may involve the Dutch Safety Board, to ensure that the crew receive the appropriate assistance when dealing with the investigations, statements and any formalities which will arise.
NNPC Correspondents is of course available to assist on such matters 24/7 and we invite you to contact us with any queries or questions you may have.