Holding the bag? Responsibilities for the highest license onboard

I had a mariner tell me that the seniormost licenseholder onboard a vessel could be held accountable for operations on the vessel even if they were not at his hand. Is this true?
Due to the nature of our industry and the “interpretation” of the rules by some mariners, I have some concern about this claim. For example if I am serving as a Mate, off-watch, while holding a 500 Master, and an on-watch 100 Master pumps or authorizes the pumping of oily bilges overboard can I be held responsible? What if I were on watch (as Mate), and that 100-ton master, serving as the Captain orders the pumping?
If you have direction to legalese concerning this, please post it.

No, the duties and responsibilities of officers and crew is based upon the position held. With regards to responsibilities the level of the license held is irrelevant.


Has nothing to do with license held, it’s the position appointed by the company. You can be an Unlimited Master running as Mate with a 100 ton Master running as Master. He’s the Master, plain and simple.


If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard this phrase or something similar precede some nonsensical scuttlebutt from the crew.


In a similar vein I had an attorney tell me he quit his OUPV course because after consulting with other attorneys he felt that if he had a license he might be held partially responsible if an accident happened while he was a guest aboard a pleasure vessel.
I can see this happening only under extreme circumstances such as providing an unlicensed owner at the helm with incorrect advice.

The main argument here is the more ignorant and untrained a person is the safer he is.


Thanks for all the responses. I appreciate your time taken to provide input.

1 Like