Maritime minister Nusrat Ghani has recently rejected an industry request to reinstate government funding for the UK's Confidential Hazardous Incident Reporting Programme (CHIRP), forcing it to continue to operate on charitable grants.
The CHIRP maritime programme originally received UK government funding when it was established in 2003 following the success of a similar scheme for the aviation industry. However funding was withdrawn in 2011 as a result of a Comprehensive Spending Review.
Ms Ghani told Nautilus International that there were 'no current plans to reconsider that decision'.
The maritime programme, which seeks to make British waters safer for everyone, has since had to rely on the support of organisations such as Trinity House, Lloyd's Register Foundation, the ITF Seafarers' Trust and Seafarers UK. The aviation sector scheme is funded by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which in turn is funded by the UK civil aviation industry.
Nautilus general secretary Mark Dickinson criticised the maritime minister's response given the government's so-called 'firm commitments' to maritime safety as set out in its Maritime Safety Action Plan, launched at Maritime Safety Week in June. “Why can't the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) be funded sufficiently to support maritime CHIRP?” he said.
Mr Dickinson wrote to Ms Ghani to emphasise the maritime sector's desperate need for government CHIRP funding. He said that it seemed: “somewhat at odds that the maritime industry should have to rely on charitable appeals for financial support, when it is an industry with more evident safety problems, and one in which the consequences of an accident - in terms of loss of life, damage to the environment and economic losses - could far outstrip an aviation accident”.
The cost of funding the CHIRP maritime programme would be “a fraction of the costs of a major shipping accident”, he added.
He called on the government to reconsider its decision to withdraw support and to work with organisations within the sector to highlight the work of CHIRP to encourage improvements in safety standards across the industry for the benefit of seafarers and shipping.
The letter was supported by several leading organisations in the maritime sector including The UK Chamber of Shipping, the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), Seafarers UK and the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations.
CHIRP's annual digest reports on hazards across sectors such as pilotage and tugs, passengerships and yachting, taken from the confidential reports it receives and shares in its quarterly publication Feedback.
“The "human factor" is frequently cited as a key element in more than 85% of maritime accidents, and CHIRP reports can provide insights into human error, procedural problems, systematic shortfalls, and to identify the barriers or action that prevents incidents from developing into major accidents,” Mr Dickinson said.
“CHIRP encourages seafarers to take ‘ownership’ of safety issues by participation in a reporting system that can help to foster wider dialogue, share "best practice", and influence positive change, as well as serving as a useful reminder of hazards in an inherently dangerous industry.”