Dual Accident Reporting

The Global Fishing Industry Accident Data Management System

Why is a Dual Accident Reporting System important?

An important aspect of any accident reporting system is the ability by industry to report information (events, accidents, etc) via two separate channels – the official, mandatory reporting route to governments, and the voluntary, confidential reporting option to a central group.

This was reiterated recently at a meeting held in Saint Lucia in January 2020 –hosted by the FAO and the FISH Safety Foundation. At this meeting, attended by representatives of 7 Caribbean Nations, the group discussed a newly developed regional accident reporting form and system. The group emphasised the need for speedy and full reporting, and further agreed that there were two possible avenues for this reporting to take place, and that both should be considered as viable reporting options.

After an accident has occurred, the vessel skipper or owner needs to report it directly to the relevant Competent Authority (Fisheries, CoastGuard, etc) as soon as possible. At present, this means using a paper-based reporting form, and returning the completed document to the authorities. Some jurisdictions may also have an online accident reporting capability.

Once the accident / fatality has been reported, the relevant information should be recorded on the CompetentAuthority’s secure database. In many cases, this will have to be established first.

With the relevant information reported, recorded and securely stored in an information database, decisions are required to be made as to the need to investigate a particular accident or not. This will depend on the severity of the event, whether there has been a clear regulatory breach, or whether there are potentially important lessons to be learned and shared with industry.

Note: The FISH Safety Foundation recently completed a FAO project to develop an Accident Report Form (and accompanying Guidelines for Authorities) for the Competent Authorities in the Caribbean. We are now able to assist National Authorities in setting up the required systems to manage this process, as well as train investigators in the required skills to adequately investigate accidents, and learn the lessons as required.

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This option is an important addition to the mandatory route outlined above. Noting that some fishers may be reluctant to report accidents to the authorities (whether that's the Fisheries Departments, Coastguard or Police), yet recognising the critical importance of accident reporting, a voluntary confidential reporting system has been developed to supplement the mandatory program.

As shown in the Figure, there are a number of reporting options in a voluntary system, including:

  • Manual paper-based
  • Online web-based [simply the paper-based option available online]
  • Mobile Phone App: (either voice recording or data entry)

Note that input may be made by fishers themselves, family / community groups, or dedicated coordinating representatives (fishing safety champions) from the local fishing associations.

Whichever option is chosen by industry participants, these FISHER Reports are then collected by the FISH Safety Foundation and recorded in an international database (to be managed by FSF). Again, verification and confidentiality of information included in the database will be of paramount importance.

It is acknowledged that this second option may be seen as bypassing the official channels and may not be easily accepted by Authorities initially. However it is worth examining how these two reporting systems could co-exist and ultimately lead to more information being provided, leading to the much-needed safety improvements being implemented in the industry. Both approaches ultimately aim to have accidents recorded in an information database.

It is following the recording in the respective databases that crossover between voluntary and mandatory may take place. The FSF will actively encourage National Authorities to share information in their local / National databases, so that this is added to the FISHER database. This will include records, statistics and any other information that can be included and consolidated in one global fishing safety database.

Likewise, if a report via the confidential route is received by the FSF, and the FSF system administrators believe that an investigation is warranted, then we will liaise with the accident reporter (if possible), and ask for permission to contact the relevant authority with the accident details to allow for further investigation. If permission is granted, then discussions and information exchange with the relevant authority (fisheries or safety department, coast guard, etc) will take place as required. If permission is not received from the reporter – and there could be any number of reasons for this refusal – that decision needs to be respected. There will still be value in the initial report, with possible important lessons learned that will be distributed to industry.

Simply reporting and recording accidents is not enough. In order to be of benefit to the wider industry, there is another critically important task to undertake – that of analysing the information received and “learning the lessons” in order to provide industry with the information needed to prevent similar accidents occurring in the future. In order to further our analysis, detect patterns and trends, data visualisation tools with accompanying dashboards are used to provide much needed insight for the data we collect. This also makes the findings readily available and actionable to a range of audience levels.

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