The regulatory body is signalling that a full accident report should not be delayed by the criminal investigation.
A full accident report into the 114,000-gt Costa Concordia (built 2006) tragedy could be ready within two to three months and act as a catalyst for wide-ranging voluntary reform on safety practices within the industry.
Italian delegates at a Stability on Load Lines and Fishing Vessels (SLF) meeting at the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) have told member states that it would be ready to produce a statement within a matter of a few months.
The statement has gone some way to allaying fears that publication of a report may be delayed by the ongoing criminal investigation.
Although under European Law, accident-investigation reports are intended to be wholly independent from criminal proceedings, it is unclear whether that has been written into Italian law yet. Accident investigations are still carried out by the Ministry of Infrastructure & Transport (MIT) rather than an independent body, such as the UK’s Maritime Accident Investigation Branch (Maib). The Italian MIT declines to comment on the investigation.
Observers say there are a number of factors working in favour of early production of a report.
One investigator said: “The ship was registered in Italy, it was under Italian class, it had Italian officers and the accident happened in Italy, so there will be no communications or jurisdiction issues.”
Early publication of the report is vital as cruise organisations are holding fire on reforming practices while awaiting the report.
The Cruise Ship Safety Forum, an influential body made up of the major operators and other stakeholders, such as classification societies and shipyards, says it has still not made a decision on what action to take.
Chairman Tom Allen said: “It is up to our steering committee to decide but I feel at the moment there are too many unknowns and we will probably have to wait until after the investigation before we decide what will be appropriate.”
The European Cruise Council is already responding to questions sent by both the European Commission (EC) and US government on cruiseship safety that is likely to signify the start of moves toward regulatory reform.
As part of a voluntary action, all cruiseship operators are currently undergoing a review of their International Safety Management (ISM) procedures related to the ISM Code requirement for continuous improvement.
It has been suggested the results of that review could provide the basis for voluntary vacation on safety before any regulatory changes are made.