Preliminary investigation on boat tragedy to begin

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NEWLY appointed Marine Investigation officer, Joe Koavi will conduct a preliminary investigation into the tragic incident in which 27 missing passengers were washed overboard MV Taimareho between Guadalcanal and Malaita on April 2.

Solomon Islands Maritime Authority (SIMA) Director, Jonah Mitau made the appointment on Sunday 6th April following the seriousness of the sea ordeal which saw high school students, women and men and family members lost at sea.

The appointment of Koavi is in line with the Shipping Act 1998 and Shipping (Marine Inquiries and Investigations) Regulations 2011.

Mitau said the investigator will commence the investigation when the ship returns to Honiara around Tuesday [tomorrow] or Wednesday because it is currently engaged in the search and rescue as well.

“The investigator will start interviewing the ship’s relevant masters, crew members, owners, shippers, passengers and witnesses and obtained signed statements from them.

“The investigator will also determine the status of the registration of the vessel and ascertain all its certificates and determine all other legal requirements applying to the vessel at the time of the incident, casualty, or even under investigation,” he said.

Mitau said the preliminary investigation will complete within 14 days or two weeks.

According to the regulation, the report of preliminary investigation shall be given to the Director, who will make it available to Minister of Infrastructure Development.

He said no report of a preliminary investigation may be used in any civil, criminal or disciplinary proceedings, except for any inquiry under the Death and Fire Inquiry Act [Cap. 9].

In addition, Mitau said due to the seriousness of the incident, he has written to the Minister to set up a Marine Inquiry.

The Minister will appoint the chairperson and two members of the Board of Marine Inquiry, who must not hold positions in SIMA.

The board will provide the final report to the Minister after going through it.

According to the regulation, the Director of SIMA shall ensure action is taken to implement the recommendation of the Board’s report and shall report to the Minister on all remedial action not less than two month.

Any answer or evidence given by a person to a Board of marine inquiry may not be used as evidence against that person in any civil or criminal proceeding taken against that person.

Further to that, the Director or the Minister may order that a safety review be conducted in accordance with this Part after the conduct of a preliminary investigation, whether a recommendation has been made for the safety review to be undertaken or not.

The Director may appoint additional advisers for the conduct of a safety review in accordance with this Part, and such advisers shall have the rights and powers stated in section 85 of the Act.

A report of a safety review shall not be admissible as evidence in any legal proceedings, except for any inquiry under the Death and Fire Inquiry Act (Cap. 9].