Cyprus Mail

Blame game over Mari muddied the key issues

The four stages that Johan van den Kerkhof uses to analyse the causes of the Mari disaster are alright up to a point.

However, his Stage 2 (The storage of the containers) and Stage 3 (The blast) omit completely the critically important requirements of the EU Major Hazards Directive imposed on the EAC Vassilikos site operator adjacent to the Mari site.

The Directive’s requirements of EAC include Article 7 on the creation, maintenance and revision of an effective Major Accident Prevention Policy “designed to guarantee a high level of protection for man and the environment by appropriate means, structures and management systems”; Article 8 on the prevention of ‘domino effects’ from any nearby major hazards; Article 9 the obligation to properly update its statutory Safety Report – in this instance after the arrival of the munitions at Mari in 2009.

The Polyviou report on Mari (not mentioned by Mr Kerkhof) was damning in its criticism of many identified causal factors. He named President Christofias as having the over-riding responsibility for the tragedy, plus a number of ministers, military officers and other officials whom he concluded also bore significant responsibility.

He also savagely criticised the laissez-faire culture of the turning of blind eyes and avoidance of personal responsibility. While not responsible for the Mari explosion per se, EAC failed to comprehend the changed risk profile of their site after the munitions arrived at Mari in 2009 (which they knew about) and failed to respond immediately and appropriately to their EU Directive obligations.

This failure almost certainly led to the Vassilikos power station being left rather ‘naked’ in terms of domino effects from an explosion at Mari.

The chapter on the Mari-Vassilikos disaster in my recent book Corporate Risk and Governance ends: “The case not only highlights the maxim that ‘time and major hazards wait for no man’ but also demonstrates that failure to follow with good discipline the well-known principles and practices of major hazards risk control is likely to end in disaster.

“Sovereign corruption mixed with ineptitude and political expediency is a toxic combination that cannot co-exist with the effective control of major hazards.”

Dr Alan Waring,

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