The Hellenic Bureau for Marine Casualties Investigation: Time for reform?

Anna-Maria Mitrara, UK Club Claims Executive, and Christos Aporellis, UK Club Senior Claims Director, have asked whether it is time for the Hellenic Bureau for Marine Casualties Investigation (HBMCI) to be reformed.

The HBMCI was recently instituted as the competent body to conduct marine casualty investigations under Greek Law 4033/2011. That law implemented EU Directive 2009/18/EC as the framework for accident investigations in the marine transport sector.

HBMCI investigations are limited to marine casualties or incidents involving commercial shipping. Specifically excluded are warships or other types of ships owned or managed by the Greek and/or EU Member-States which are used on public non-commercial services. As a consequence, the HBMCI is not able to investigate incidents involving these ships.

The HBMCI’s investigations are also restricted to a factual analysis of an incident, without being allowed to allocate fault. It is independent from any criminal, disciplinary, administrative or civil investigations which may seek to determine or apportion liability.

Thus, noted the writers, “even where the Public Prosecutor appoints a surveyor for the same incident, any criminal investigation is conducted in parallel to, and independent from, the HBMCI”.

Indeed, the enabling language in the legislation creating the HBMCI clearly evidences the intention that any HBCMI report made should not be used in judicial proceedings.

UK Club noted that, from a P&I perspective, one way to view the HBMCI is in a way similar to Loss Prevention. The HBMCI’s role is to identify the causal and contributing factors that led to a marine accident or incident, with the objective of avoiding similar marine accidents in the future, thereby enhancing maritime safety. It stands separate to any judicial assessment conducted by the courts or administrative bodies.

However, observed the writers this had not stopped parties in litigation seeking to rely on findings in a HBMCI report to bolster their case. “Whilst this is certainly not the correct use of these reports, the HBMCI findings have been admitted as factual evidence in civil proceedings”, observed Aporellis and Mitrara.

They concluded that “given that the courts seem willing to overlook the intention that HBMCI reports are not used in litigation, unless and until there is an express prohibition on admitting the reports as evident, they should be always be regarded a potentially influential in any civil proceedings”.