There are a number of conventions dealing with maritime safety. Of great importance is SOLAS (International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea), adopted in 1929. Preparatory work leading to the convention had already commenced before the Titanic disaster in 1912. Nevertheless this catastrophe clearly showed the need for international cooperation on maritime safety. The rules in SOLAS emphasize technical safety and contain many rules for the safe construction of ships.
Another important convention is the UN Convention UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea), which regulates principles for state sovereignty at sea. Sweden is a member of the IMO(International Maritime Organization), which was founded in 1948 as a consultative body to the UN. However, today its responsibility is similar to that of the ICAO within aviation. The IMO works for safety within commercial shipping. The main instrument for this work is SOLAS.
SHK cooperates with authorities in other countries investigating maritime accidents according to the rules and guidelines set by IMO, the international maritime organization. The state investigating an accident is obliged to allow another state to participate in the investigation when the latter state has a substantial interest in the accident. It may be a question of the nationality of the vessel or the passengers or perhaps the accident has resulted in widespread pollution of the natural environment in that state. The cooperation is regulated in SOLAS and the IMO Code for the investigation of maritime accidents.
On 17 June 2011, a new EU directive came into force, Council Directive 2009/18/EC, which regulates the requirements and methods for investigating maritime accidents within the EU, and requirements for intergovernmental cooperation in the EU in terms of maritime accidents. The directive has led to an extended mandate for SHK (see Deciding whether to investigate) and has also resulted in amendments to legislation on public access to information and confidentiality.
Through this directive, EU cooperation has been formalized within a permanent cooperation framework (PCF), which meets regularly to discuss, amongst other things, forms for cooperation, lessons learned and methodological issues. SHK is the Swedish representative in the PCF.
SHK is a member of MAIIF(Marine Accident Investigators International Forum). SHK continuously follows international development and participates in major conferences where accident investigations are discussed.