Thank you for your interest in this course. Our three Safety and Accident Investigation courses – Rail Transport, Marine Transport and Air Transport, now form a sole Safety and Accident Investigation course, which is available both full and part time. For more information please contact

Developed in close collaboration with the marine accident investigation community, this course offers a unique combination of research based learning and learning from real-world experiences, ensuring that students gain the skills and knowledge from the best of both academia and industry.


  • Start dateJanuary or May
  • DurationPart-time PgCert - one year
  • DeliveryTaught modules 100%
  • QualificationPgCert
  • Study typePart-time
  • CampusCranfield campus

Who is it for?

The course is primarily aimed at those involved, or about to become involved, in marine accident investigation and other safety related industries.

The course is suitable for those with a technical or operational background in marine or safety engineering and management, accident investigators, and those employed by national investigation agencies, operator, regulators, and manufacturers.

Why this course?

The course structure has been developed in close collaboration with the accident investigation community and with the endorsement of the Cranfield Safety and Accident Investigation Centre’s Industrial Advisory Board.

An important aspect of this course is the use of hands-on workshops and simulations to develop the practical skills required as an investigator. This is complemented by sessions and modules that enable you to conduct rigorous research and scientific analysis, along with technical writing, investigation and interviewing techniques.

Cranfield University is very well located for visiting part-time students from all over the world, and offers a range of library and support facilities to support your studies. This enables students from all over the world to complete this qualification whilst balancing work/life commitments. This PgCert programme benefits from a wide range of cultural backgrounds which significantly enhances the learning experience for both staff and students.

Informed by Industry

The Industry Advisory Board for this course is made up of representatives from several organisations who have an interest in safety and accident investigation.

As this is a new course, it is expected that the Board will meet annually to ensure the course content remains relevant and up-to-date. 

Course details

The course is delivered on a modular basis and consists of a combination of conventional learning tools and hands-on experience through field exercises and simulations.

The programme commences with attendance on the three-week module in Fundamentals of Investigation followed by a three-week module in Applied Marine Accident Investigation. The two compulsory modules have input from a significant number of external presenters from safety and accident investigation field.

Course delivery

Taught modules 100%


Keeping our courses up-to-date and current requires constant innovation and change. The modules we offer reflect the needs of business and industry and the research interests of our staff and, as a result, may change or be withdrawn due to research developments, legislation changes or for a variety of other reasons. Changes may also be designed to improve the student learning experience or to respond to feedback from students, external examiners, accreditation bodies and industrial advisory panels.

To give you a taster, we have listed the compulsory and elective (where applicable) modules which are currently affiliated with this course. All modules are indicative only, and may be subject to change for your year of entry.

Course modules

Compulsory modules
All the modules in the following list need to be taken as part of this course

Fundamentals of Investigation

Module Leader
  • Professor Graham Braithwaite

    To provide accident investigators with the fundamental knowledge and skills to conduct a general transport accident investigation.



    • The purpose of investigation
    • Notification processes
    • Getting started
    • Group system of investigation
    • Health and safety at the accident site
    • Initial appraisal of land and sea based sites
    • Disaster response
    • Disaster management
    • Competing interests, criminal investigations
    • Recovery of wreckage
    • Wreckage photography


    • Collecting evidence
    • Site survey techniques
    • Systems, engineering and operations investigations
    • High profile investigations
    • Organisational accidents
    • Investigative interviewing
    • Interview techniques
    • Analysis of statements
    • Physical evidence
    • Crashworthiness
    • Structures
    • Material failures and composites
    • Look and record
    • Remote site survey
    • Investigation site simulation

    Human factors

    • The human factor
    • Physiology
    • Psychology
    • Ergonomics
    • Passenger behaviour
    • Investigation support
    • Test capabilities
    • The role of the media
    • Witnesses
    • Accident pathology
    • Recovery and identification of bodies
    • Court procedures for investigators
    • The Coroner’s court


    • Recorders
    • Data recorders (voice/flight data)
    • Analysis of recorders
    • Non-volatile memory
    • Fundamentals of analysis
    • Analytical approaches
    • Applying analysis tools
    • Traps in analysis


    • A major event
    • Management of large investigations
    • Liaising with victims / families
    • Relatives’ perspective
    • Report writing
    • Relations with the regulator
    • Managing recommendations
    • Multimodal investigations
    • Follow-up actions
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, you will be able to:

  • Describe the accident investigation process for a transport accident including elements of preparation, emergency response, evidence collection, analysis and presentation of findings.
  • Work safely under supervision at an accident site.
  • Conduct witness interviews and collect material evidence from a variety of relevant sources.
  • Conduct an analysis of evidence to develop a no-blame report of what occurred and recommendations for future prevention.
  • Work successfully alongside relevant agencies including the police, coroner, media and regulator.

Applied Marine Accident Investigation

    This module builds on the Fundamentals of Accident Investigation to develop specialist skills for the investigation of marine accidents.

    Marine accident investigation legal and management issues (contact: 10 / private study: 25)

    The international legal basis for marine accident investigation and the practical application of the rules, recommendations and guidance
    • Historical background
    • UNCLOS, SOLAS, MARPOL and other relevant conventions
    • The Casualty Investigation Code
    • National Laws
    • IMO’s guidance on the investigation of fatigue and human factors
    • VDR ownership and recovery
    • EU Directive
    • Databases
    Case studies as appropriate

    The International Safety Management (ISM) Code and its interrelation with accident investigation
    • Background to the ISM Code
    • Auditing and its role in accident prevention
    • The ISM Code in practice

    Managing a marine accident investigation
    • Notification of and coordination and communication with other agencies/parties
    • Using technical advisors
    • Time/resource management
    • Managing the news media
    • Cultural aspects
    • Preparing to release an investigation report
    • Managing recommendations
    • Possible litigation aspects
    • The role of the Investigator-in-Charge
    • The role of the Chief Inspector
    Case studies and simulations, as appropriate

    Marine specific investigation techniques (contact: 20 / private study: 60)

    Site risk assessment and hazard identification for common marine accident scenarios
    • Access to the accident site
    • The presence of dangerous substances and atmospheres
    • Bio hazards in the marine environment
    • The safety of the ship platform
    Case studies e.g. CP Valour (Bermuda), MSC Napoli (UK)

    Evidence preservation and collection issues in common marine accident scenarios
    • Access issues
    • Commercial pressures
    • Legal considerations
    • Technical evidence- VDRs, AIS, ECDIS, VTS, CCTV
    • Evidence collection strategies
    Various case studies, as appropriate
    Human performance, human factors and marine accidents
    • Analysis of errors in the marine context
    • Multi-national crewing, social and cultural issues
    • Language and communication
    • Distraction
    • Fatigue, leadership and complacency
    • Safety culture
    • Master/pilot relationship
    • Commercial pressures
    • Uncovering the organisational and systemic factors
    Case studies, as appropriate

    Investigating marine collisions, contacts and grounding accidents
    • Displaying and analysing VDR and other electronic evidence, MADAS
    • Collision regulations and their effectiveness
    • Investigating competence, fatigue and other human performance issues
    • Collisions in poor visibility, safe speed issues
    • Casualties in harbour areas, master/pilot relationship
    Case studies e.g. Cosco Busan (US) Lykes Voyager/Washington Senator (UK), Royal Majesty (Panama)
    Investigating ship fires
    • Site risk assessment and hazard identification
    • Engine room fires
    • Cargo fires
    • Accommodation fires
    • Fire detection, fire fighting, fire protection and evacuation issues
    Case studies, as appropriate

    Investigating structural/material failures, loading and stability problems
    • Maintenance and operational history
    • Practical evidence gathering problems and potential solutions
    • Corrosion, fatigue and other failure modes
    • Forensic analysis methods
    Case studies, as appropriate

    Investigating machinery failures
    • Overview of different types of engineering and machinery failures
    • Sources of evidence
    • Non-destructive & destructive testing
    • Trials & reconstructions
    • Failure mode analysis
    Case studies, as appropriate.

    Investigating occupational health and safety accidents
    • Factors to consider
    • Sources of evidence
    • Different types of occupational accidents, eg.
    • Enclosed space entry accidents
    • Accidents involving use/misuse of machinery – watertight doors, cranes
    • Mooring accidents
    • Lifeboat, rescue craft and evacuation equipment accidents
    • Safety Management issues
    Case studies as appropriate

    General investigation techniques (contact: 30 / private study: 80)

    Enhanced investigative interviewing techniques:
    • General recap of investigative interviewing and memory theory
    • Oveview of cognitive interviewing
    • Introduction to SE3R methodology
    • Quadrant Behaviour

    Investigation analysis techniques:
    • General recap of analysis methods
    • Principals and pitfalls of no-blame marine investigations
    • Application of systemic models in marine investigations
    • Overview of selected accident analysis models, eg. SHELL, AIBN model, STEP
    Case studies and mentored practical workshops

    Investigation report writing and recommendation development:
    • Purpose of writing an investigation report
    • Guidance on report writing
    • Report planning and preparation
    • Report structure
    • Principles of writing an effective report
    • Critiquing accident investigation reports
    • Principles of developing effective recommendations

    Major investigation simulation (contact: 40 / private study: 35)

    A major marine accident investigation exercise which examines:

    • Team and investigation management
    • Team working
    • Cooperation and coordination with other interested parties (including other investigations, the media etc.)
    • Securing the accident site
    • Health and safety and risk assessment at the accident site
    • Physical examination and accident site photography
    • Physical and documentary evidence collection
    • Technical evidence identification and collection
    • Witness interviewing
    • Evidence analysis
    • Preparation of recommendations
    • Formal report writing
    • Debriefing

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module a student should be able to:

1. Demonstrate a thorough understanding of the international requirements and guidance which underpin marine accident investigations
2. Work safely and effectively without supervision at a marine accident site, coordinating where necessary with other investigating teams and interested parties
3. Describe and contrast the different approaches to the investigation of different types of marine accidents.
4. Demonstrate a thorough understanding of the marine accident investigation process.
5. Safely and effectively collect information/evidence from a variety of electronic, hard copy and witness sources to support investigations and research.
6. Describe common failure/error types and their symptoms in terms of marine structures, equipment, organisational systems and human factors.
7. Demonstrate knowledge of different approaches to the analysis of marine accident data and compare and contrast their effectiveness for different accident types/investigation scenarios.
8. Successfully manage an accident investigation, both on-site and through to the publication and acceptance of recommendations, including, efficient time management, working to set deadlines and targets, demonstrating self-discipline, creative thinking and critical reflections of their own performance.
9. Prepare an effective accident report and develop feasible safety recommendations.
10. Collaborate and contribute effectively to group workshops, simulations and assignments, appreciating the contributions made by other team members, especially from different disciplines, national and cultural backgrounds.

Teaching team

Your career

The PgCert in Safety and Accident Investigation (Marine Transport) allows you to receive an internationally recognised qualification in the field of marine accident investigation. The majority of students join this course with the intention of receiving a qualification that will allow them to further their career development in accident investigation or other safety related areas of the marine transport industry.


How to apply

Online application form. UK students are normally expected to attend an interview and financial support is best discussed at this time. Overseas and EU students may be interviewed by telephone.