Solis Marine Seminar: Evidence. Friend Or Foe

 In Articles

The range, quality and interpretation of evidence to determine the cause of marine investigations was explored at our recent seminar in London which considered how written records and recorded data is used when understanding what caused an accident.

The reliability and accuracy of log books, record books, checklists and physical evidence are fundamental when gathering the necessary information to reconstruct what happened when accidents occur at sea.

Solis Marine head of marine engineering services Chris Gascoigne explained how investigations can uncover critical flaws in record keeping, incomplete or inaccurate management systems and even the manipulation of available electronic data which can jeopardise the outcome of a case.

When responsibility is disputed by the parties involved, detailed analysis which draws upon the combined expertise of master mariners, marine engineers and naval architects provides ship owners, insurers, marine lawyers and the courts with a true picture of what has happened.

And in some cases, analysis of previous incidents, such as injuries caused at sea, has led to industry wide recommendations to try and prevent similar accidents and mistakes being repeated.

In the session, Solis Marine partner Captain Richard Meikle drew on a diverse selection of marine investigations to illustrate the use of evidence and data to establish cause and effect.

Examples included a collision between a bulk carrier and a cargo ship in which the voyage data recorder (VDR) was defective and there was no AIS data. However data retrieved from a third vessel in the vicinity which went to offer assistance established how the collision was caused and who was at fault.

Dramatic onboard CCTV footage was analysed to help to understand where passengers were and how they were injured on a cruise liner which hit heavy weather on a short cruise in the South Pacific leading to heavy rolling. Using this evidence, Richard was able to calculate the degree at which the ship was listing and make recommendations as to how furniture and fittings should be secured to eliminate the risk of passenger injuries.


Solis Marine’s Rapid Replay technology was used to establish the precise location of a police patrol boat and a RHIB involved in a collision after the two vessels collided. Using data from the RHIB’s navigation box pinpointed their precise locations following a high speed chase.

Naval architect and data analyst Duncan Campbell explained the six different data sources which are used as part of any investigation, using the Rapid

Replay platform to illustrate how existing and new systems are used to provide irrefutable evidence in complex investigations, particularly if the data is disputed or when there is a risk of falsified testimony.

If you would like to arrange a seminar for your organisation or join an online session, please contact Richard Meikle on



The six data sources which can be considered when investigating marine accidents:

AIS – The Automatic Identification System is a tracking system that transmits a ship’s position, identity, course and speed.

VDR – VDR is usually a two-part system consisting of a data collecting unit and a protected storage unit that stores the retrieved data. The main component of the system is carried inside the ship and is connected to a deck-mounted protective capsule which houses a fixed high-capacity solid state memory block. The capsule is designed to withstand fire, deep sea pressure, shock and penetration.

The data collecting unit continuously records 12 hours of onboard activity including date and time; ship position; speed; heading; bridge audio; ship VHF communications relating to operations; radar information showing actual radar picture at the time of recording; depth under keel; rudder angle; engine order and response; hull opening status; watertight and fire doors status; hull stress monitoring and wind speed and direction.

ECDIS – The Electronic Chart Display and Information System is a navigational chart system used in vessels and ships. With the use of the electronic chart system, it has become easier and safer for a ship’s navigating crew to pinpoint locations and attain directions.

VTS – Vessel Traffic Services are shore-side systems which range from the provision of simple information messages to ships, such as position of other traffic or meteorological hazard warnings, to extensive management of traffic within a busy port or waterway.

PPU – A Portable Pilot Unit is a portable, computer-based system that a pilot brings onboard a vessel to use as a decision-support tool for navigating in confined waters.

BAS – This system provides for the monitoring of berthing and mooring operations at maritime terminals, providing information to improve operations and guarantee secure berthing of the ship, facilitating safe and effective operations.

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