WASHINGTON — Federal officials are pushing the U.S. maritime industry to submit to the government information on incidents that had nearly resulted in vessel collisions as a way to improve safety.
The Safe Maritime Transportation System (SafeMTS), a database that will store voluntary “near-miss” incidents, is being developed through an interagency agreement between the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) and the U.S. Maritime Administration (MarAd).
SafeMTS will be used “to identify early warnings of safety problems and potential safety issues by uncovering hidden, at-risk conditions not previously exposed from analysis of reportable accidents and incidents,” according to BTS.
The database will fill a safety gap in the maritime industry that could be used to prevent fatal accidents.
“There is currently no reporting regime in place for maritime industry near-miss or safety incidents and other non-casualty/reportable safety matters,” BTS stated in a Federal Register document posted Monday. “Marine casualties and many other incidents are reportable via separate regulations under either [the Occupational Safety and Health Administration] or [the U.S. Coast Guard] jurisdiction.
“However, near-miss reporting is not required under current regulations, and no industry-wide database of near-miss events exists for the maritime industry. A consolidated database of near-miss incident data would allow for analysis and dissemination of key findings to the industry for use in advancing maritime transportation safety.”
BTS defines a near miss as an “unplanned or uncontrolled event or chain of events that has not resulted in recordable injury or physical damage or environmental damage but had the potential to do so in other circumstances.” It has helped develop near-miss databases for the railroad industry and the offshore energy sector, and the Federal Aviation Administration oversees a similar database for commercial aviation.
While the benefits of having such a database for the maritime industry have been studied and analyzed, ensuring confidentiality has been a concern and a hurdle to setting up a program.
For the information collection, BTS is targeting “businesses in the maritime industry that involve ownership or operation of vessels,” estimating a potential for 100 electronic responses on a quarterly basis.
Near-miss information that respondents will be asked to provide include time and location of the event; a description of the event and operating conditions that existed at the time of the event; results of an investigation or safety analysis report; and any corrective actions taken as a result of the event.
The public will have 60 days to comment on the new database and how BTS plans to collect the information.
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