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Independent Inquiry Into Port Operations Accidents At Lyttelton And Auckland

The Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) is inquiring into the fatal accidents at Lyttelton Port and Ports of Auckland.

The Minister of Transport directed TAIC to inquire into the circumstances and causes of the two accidents and provide an independent safety focussed investigation to determine any potential system-wide lessons. The Commission has opened this inquiry under Section 13(2) of the Transport Accident Investigation Commission Act 1990.

The accident at Ports of Auckland was on 19 April, in which a stevedore reportedly fell from height during loading operations for a container ship. The accident at Lyttelton Port happened on 25 April during coal loading operations for a bulk carrier ship.

TAIC’s purpose is to determine the circumstances and causes of marine, aviation and rail accidents and incidents with a view to avoiding similar occurrences in the future. The Commission does not ascribe blame.

The Commission has appointed a team of investigators, who will travel to both accident scenes commencing with Lyttelton tomorrow [eds: 28 April]. In this initial phase of the inquiry, TAIC’s investigators will speak with people who may have information about the accidents, gather evidence about the accident scenes, secure records and recordings such as photos, videos and other data. The operating environment is always of interest, including the operating company safety systems, organisational culture of the ship and stevedore operators, and regulatory matters.

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When the inquiry is complete, the Commission’s final report will address the circumstances and causes of the accidents, identify any safety lessons in these particular cases and at a system level across the sector. If necessary, the Commission will make recommendations for changes to improve transport safety.

Background – about the Transport Accident Investigation Commission:

  • The Transport Accident Investigation Commission is a standing Commission of Inquiry, established by the Transport Accident Investigation Commission Act 1990.
  • It is empowered to prohibit access to an accident site, to inspect and remove records, and to secure physical evidence. Some of its powers are provided under the Commissions of Inquiry Act 1908.
  • It is required by law to act independently from the Government, of regulatory agencies, and of transport operators when conducting its investigations. It is independent of any other investigations that other authorities may be undertaking – for example, into compliance with transport regulations, occupational health and safety issues, or possible criminal activity.
  • Statements and submissions made to the Commission, as well as certain investigation records, are protected records that can only be disclosed for the purposes of the Commission’s inquiry. This reflects the purpose of the Commission which is to increase transport safety by avoiding repeat accidents, rather than ascribing blame. Similarly, the Commission’s reports cannot be used in regulatory, criminal or civil proceedings, but can be used in a Coroner’s inquiry.
  • The Commission co-ordinates with other investigations seeking access to an accident scene or physical evidence.
  • More: www.taic.org.nz

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