Master’s Blog I am the master of my fate … (W.E. Henley)
The authority of the master is so very great, and the trust reposed in him, including not merely the ship and goods of his employers, but he lives of the crew and passengers, so very extensive, that it is the bounden duty of the public to provide that it be not committed to ignorant or incapable hands.
A dictionary, practical, theoretical, and historical, of commerce and commercial navigation, by John Ramsay M'Culloch, 1835

Master is a man not a mouse…

Every master handles daily bunch of messages, orders, requests, etc. Some of instructions rather simple, but some require careful attention and master often in doubt whether his decision to obey is a correct one. Understandably, there is no universal rule applicable to every situation but …

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Is a cadet’s negligence always the master’s incompetence?

In "The distinction between ‘crew negligence’ and ‘crew incompetence’ and the consequence thereof" (click here if you cannot access this document) published on UK P&I Club web site, Mr. K.Bachxevanis offered an analysis of imaginary situation happened on board of merchant vessel when the cadet (who was for the first time at sea), on direction from the chief officer, wrongfully operated valves and caused major cargo contamination. Author further attempts to answer whether this act was a negligence or incompetence. The difference being of vital importance since ‘crew negligence’ falls under protection of The Hague / The Hague-Visby Rules, art. IV.2(a).

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case-note32.png COLREGS72, Rule 17, Tolerance of stand-on vessel’s actions Rule 17(a)-(b); Avoidance actions, Rule 17(c)

case-note32.png COLREGS72, Rule 19. The Tragedy of The Sun Cross

Letters of Protest. User’s Manual. Introductory Note

Any master knows what letter of protest is or, at the very least, supposed to know when such letter shall be issued. Generally, there is no any restriction to issue a letter of protest, rather the contrary, master usually encouraged and sometimes instructed to serve letter of protest whenever he thinks necessary.

It can be noted in passing, that letters of protest is not a modern invention and was known long since. Already in the eighteenth century master’s protest was treated only…

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Letters of Protest. User’s Manual. Legal value of letter of protest

It is very important to understand that although being not a legal document a letter of protest still has a certain legal value because it is treated as admissible evidence in the courts of justice.

It is necessary to explain here that, when dispute goes either to the arbitration or to the court, the parties discuss, on preliminary stage of this process, what evidence they mutually agree to be permitted for submission before the judge from the each side. Letters of protest usually form a part of such evidence. Generally, there is no sense to radically restrict evidential material provided by the opponent party, because then for the judge it would be very difficult to form his opinion and define its basis.

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Letters of Protest. User’s Manual. Specific aspects

i) when not countersigned
ii) lack of clarity - unintelligible documents produce no or negative effect.
iii) evidence against master - a letter of protest, in some circumstances, may evidence against the master.
iv) timely submitted

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Letters of Protest. User’s Manual. Express provisions in charterparty

Some charter parties expressly provide for certain requirements related to documentation in general and to letters of protest in particular.

Very important role of Letters of Protest is that they usually form a part of documentation submitted by the shipowner in support of his demurrage claim. For this purpose their legal effect, in the meaning described above, is not of much importance so far as they comply with requirements stipulated by the charterers.

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Vetting process nowadays has lost a portion of those bright objectives with which it was originally set up. The Erika and the Prestige disasters as well as later financial disturbances are the main contributing factors to this transformation (for legal aspects of majors’ approvals read here). Literally speaking, today no major is giving any approval to the inspected vessel fearing of any liability and associated bad publicity in case of hypothetical disastrous incident.

The Ship Inspection Report Programme (SIRE), as OCIMF web page says, purported to specifically address concerns about sub-standard shipping, thus all non-sub-standard shipping should theoretically thrive from this initiative. Again theoretically, any vessel can be involved in disastrous incident, such incident as …

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A huge lot of paper has being wasted during last 10-15 years to show what a progress in improving and developing safety standards has been made. Regretfully, many of improvements and developments have never gone any further than papers accurately filed and stored as multitude of checklists, instructions and manuals. And as far ago as from 2004 to one existing ‘paper epidemy’ of ISM, the second one – of ISPS, has been successfully added. Since then we are supposed to be able to fight pirates, search bombs and weapons and be skilful in wild crowd management…

Safety Culture and ISM

I can guess that nowadays the word ‘safety’ is one of most used on board of modern merchant vessels, either verbally or in electronic documents or on paper. There is probably nothing wrong in it. The problem begins when we start using this word without attaching any real meaning to it, as a sacred word from the moder prayer book - ISM. Safety nowadays is a tag, password (to non-existent reality) and a sacred word, which by magic of reluctantly completed checkist makes just a job - the safe job. That is where ISM usually begins and ends - call whatever you do the safe job and if no accident happened all requirements are met.

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ISM and reasonableness

There is no much sense to criticize ISM, same as grumbling about bad ship’s design will not improve its manoeuvring characteristics. But whatever is a nature of the evil we have to live with, it must not, I think, defeat a reason in our acts and thoughts. It follows that when an accident happens we must thinking reasonably while working on lessons to be learned and identifying contributing factors and reasonable corrective actions, never mind what ISM says. My thesis that compliance with ISM often brings about utterly unreasonable conclusions.

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Life Boats Safety

Reading articles concerned with the life boat safety difficult to disagree with authors enumerating various contributing factors to on-load release gear unsafe designs. But also difficult to see any light at the end of tunnel when considering the effect of such articles as a whole and, what is even more regretful, when observing the situation from the window of my master’s cabin.

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Lifeboats Accidents

See here shocking video on conducting rescue boat drill underway! Masters! That is not just stupidity, that is a reckless and inexcusable negligence which puts seamen lives into immediate danger!

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Safe Port Umm Qasr. 11 days aground.

This story happened some years ago, so there is a fair chance that things at Umm Qasr are better (or much better) today then they were in May of 2009. Anyway, my goal is not to discuss or grudge someone’s fault but to show all events as I saw them at that time, describe my actions and results achieved. Most probably that someone in my place would have acted differently and were more successful.

Product tanker under my command was of 35,800mts summer deadweight and she was ordered to load 16,565mts of gasoil in Ruwais, UAE, for draft of 6.85m EK in BW Umm Qasr. SW Draft of 6.85m was our draft with full immersion of propeller, so 6.85m BWAD was even less than normal ballast draft.

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