When ships collide with objects, land masses or each other, the resulting investigations consider every aspect of responsibility. Writing for the Maritime Executive, Erik and Audrey Kravets recently asserted the importance of looking at all possible factors that could lead to fault.
Although the article specifically looks at a UK maritime law case, one of the Kravets' main concepts applies to any country: comprehensive searches for proof of proper performance. This means reporting and fixing any breaches in safety standards and making sure the right mitigating practices are in place.
For example, the authors looked at a specific German vessel that crashed at Longstone off of the UK coast. Multiple breaches of local regulations were discovered, including a lack of relevant tide stream information and defective records.
This last violation proved to be particularly damaging, as the authorities also found that the ship's Chief Officer had tampered with the electronic chart system (ECS) onboard.
"The passage plan plotted out on the ECS was transferred manually to a paper chart collection," the authors write. "This allowed the chief officer to perform a manipulation on the paper chart by inserting an additional (fake) leg of the journey which the ship in question here had, in fact, never completed."
Another example of a boat collision response, and one that is still highly visible in the news, is the infamous Costa Concordia disaster. Though the case has not involved falsified navigation records, it's an instance where the actions of the captain, Francesco Schettino, have been repeatedly called into question. The latest testimony from Schettino's girlfriend alleges that the captain secretly called in a helicopter for select individuals to be taken from the wreck.
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