The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) established in 1989 following the Herald of Free Enterprise disaster is a branch of the United KingdomDepartment for Transport which can investigate any accident occurring in UK waters, regardless of the nationality of the vessel(s) involved, and accidents involving UK registered ships worldwide.
Since 3 August 2009 the MAIB has been headquartered in the Mountbatten House in Southampton, Hampshire. Previously the MAIB was headquartered in the Carlton House in Southampton.
Investigations are thorough but are strictly limited to establishing cause, promoting awareness of risks and preventing recurrence. Reporting of accidents to the MAIB is mandatory for all commercially operated vessels in UK waters and for all UK registered vessels worldwide. The MAIB receives between 1500 and 2000 incident reports annually of which 40 to 50 become full investigations with published reports. The choice of which accidents are investigated is made on the basis of the scope of the safety lessons which may be learned as a result of the investigation. The reports do not apportion blame and do not establish liability.
Accident reports provide a very detailed analysis of one specific accident and recommendations to parties involved. Annual Safety digests summarise the type of accidents and lessons which can be learnt. This is now classified by vessel type. Safety flyers are issued if an investigation reveals an urgent general risk. Safety studies look at patterns of accidents to inform policy makers, including the International Maritime Organisation, Maritime and Coastguard Agency and Health and Safety Executive, some of whom have overlapping responsibilities. For example, the Review of lifeboats and launching systems' accidents revealed that 16% of fatalities investigated on merchant ships occurred during lifeboat training exercises. Unfortunately not one life was saved by a ship's lifeboat, reported in the UK, in the same 10 year period.