Napoli inquiry - 'all-powerful commander' needed

PUBLISHED: 16:45 23 January 2009 | UPDATED: 12:20 17 June 2010

THE PLUNDERING chaos which followed the beaching of the Napoli off Branscombe could have been prevented, the official inquiry reported on the second anniversary of the disaster. Professor Ian Mercer CBE, independent chairman of the inquiry, recommended a

THE PLUNDERING chaos which followed the beaching of the Napoli off Branscombe could have been prevented, the official inquiry reported on the second anniversary of the disaster.

Professor Ian Mercer CBE, independent chairman of the inquiry, recommended a complete overhaul in legislation which would see one person with autonomous control on land after such an incident.

The results of the report, set up by Devon County Council, were revealed on Tuesday in Exeter.

Professor Mercer made it clear that he was not "in the blame game" and the inquiry was set up to address issues which could have been prevented if proper guidelines had been in place.

But the committee found that from the outset a lack of control and confusion of responsibility was core to the "chaos" which reined during the early stages of the beaching.

The police felt sidelined and powerless after the Receiver of Wreck gave them legal advice- that people can remove items from the beach so long as they report their 'salvage' within 28 days.

Professor Mercer at a press conference on Tuesday said: "The fact is the chaos need never have happened if the responsibilities of each agency were made incredibly clear."

He went on to say that the police should "manage, oversee and intervene" in recovery situations without waiting for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency's advice.

The committee recommended the chief constable being appointed as the Secretary of State's Representative for Salvage and Intervention on shore (SoSREPoS) as a counterpart to the SoSREP post at sea.

Professor Mercer added: "The chaos that the world-via the media- saw at Branscombe, need never happen again if from minute one of day one of the coastal approach of the casualty there is a single all-powerful commander on shore."

The report also recommended a review of the National Contingency Plan and the outcome of the inquiry should be built into the emergency planning of all principal coastal authorities.

Professor Mercer said he was confident that if these recommendations were taken on board and enforced, another Napoli type incident could be contained without too much disorder.

The final phase of the salvage operation will soon be underway and the last parts of the submerged Napoli are expected to have been removed by August.


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