Is being Master on a ship a high risk occupation?

The Master of VLCC New Diamond will be prosecuted because the ship he commanded leak diesel oil after a fire and after he had abandoned from the ship:

At the time the leak occurred the vessel was under “command” of a Salvage Master from the Salvor on contract to the Owner and Insurers.
Sri Lankan and Indian Coast Guard was also actively involved in the firtefighting and salvage operation.

The Master was NOT “In Command”, or even present in vicinity of the vessel.

Does Maritime Law mean anything anymore??? .


Being Master involves all kinds of pitfalls. Never changed my mind . Today, approach it carefully and cover your ass.


It’s Sri Lanka!! The same for the master of the UBC Savannah in Mexico. Anytime anyone enters countries with those types of governments we’re gambling with our freedom. Norway & Singapore really are awesome, much of the rest of the world still has some work to do.


It is not only Sri Lanka or Mexico.
Spain, Australia and several other “developed” countries has shown the way.

Still going, not just for Masters. Thousands of seafarers are treated as criminal, terrorist, or carriers of dangerous sickness, even after proven otherwise.


Most other developed countries including the US.

It’s a win-win for everyone. It limit shipowner and P&I club liability. It hides port state, flag state, class inspection failures. And it lets local politicians sho they are hard on criminals so they can win the next election.

Of course, by putting everything on the Capt. the amount of money the locals and the politicians government are going to get in court is significantly reduced but, That’s not going to happen for many years and by that time the next political party will probably be in power.


I don’t know much about Sri Lanka but I do about Mexico & a few other undeveloped countries. If you ask a Mexican if ship Masters & mariners are being singled out & exposed to corruption for the financial or political gain of someone else they’d probably laugh at you. Everyone in these undeveloped countries are at the mercy of their corrupt government. It’s not just mariners, its everyone. That’s why so many of them desperately flee to Spain, Australia, the US, Norway, Singapore etc in search of a better life. When a tourist, mariner or land worker visits Sri Lanka or Mexico they need to realize they can end up in a cell next to a ship captain over a bunch of bullshit. I can’t even remember how many times I’ve been a victim of extortion in these types of shitholes. Its Mexico & Sri Lanka!


Will be a cold day in hell before I willingly visit Mexico.

I don’t plan on ever visiting again. I used to enjoy spending time there starting in the 1960’s. On my first trip I was advised by a local in Culiacán to avoid going up into the mountains because a Federale had recently been found in a ditch with his throat cut as a warning to stay away from where weed was grown. Mexico was never safe even back then but if you had some street smarts and a working knowledge of Spanish, you could avoid major trouble. Sadly much of the country is now in a failed state and trouble will find you.

As a young buck AB towed a Liberty ship to Brownsville for scrap. It was beached in Nags Head on the first attempt. once we got there. the agent told us “Don’t go across the border to Matamoros”. Well, that was a helluva invitation to do just the opposite. The local cops were selling"Lottery tickets"., was advised to buy a few just to stay out of jail, The bars that had a band played 30 versions of Oye Como Va. Did eat some good street tacos, but always wondered what they were made of. Even going back across the border, the agents asked for my “Lottery tickets”. Rigged? You betcha

And I can’t remember how many sticks of half used deodorant I’ve lost. :rofl:


Anything that wasn’t nailed down disappeared John.

Well the best was that time when the company got put on probation by the SEC for bribery charges and knew that a certain country was going to extort us for bribes so they sent a sr executive and lots of lawyers out to the ship to walk us through customs.

Oh boy those customs agents looked like little kids on Christmas morning.

“No problem, We can wait here all day for our presents sir” :rofl:


Noblesse Oblige is how they see it when it comes to gringos.

We go back once or twice a year to visit family. But no longer on the main land of Mexico. Everyone flies or catches a bus to a reunion point on the Yucatan. Surprisingly to us, the Yucatan is still mostly the same. We were there last October & I was surprised by the sobriety checkpoints ran by mostly females police that couldn’t be paid off for a free pass. If you’ve been drinking you will go to jail now. If the police tried that in Tampalupas, Veracruz, Neuavo Leon or San Luis Potosi all the police would be killed the first night by the narcos. When my Mexican brother in law told me about the new checkpoints my brain wouldn’t accept it. I didn’t believe it until I seen it with my own eyes.

Even though I sometimes feel more free outside of the US I never forget that I’m still a foreigner in a foreign land & things can go bad at a drop of a hat. Being a mariner or ship master doesn’t neccesarily increase your chances of being a victim of a corrupt government IMO. It’s like roulette I guess? Maybe that’s part of the thrill?

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I was in the Navy in the mid 80’s and was on a destroyer tender on her first Med cruise. We were in Palma. A CPO went out partying and came back intoxicated, hit the rack, next morning, fell out of the rack and struck his head on a locker. Brain bleed, lost consciousness, taken to a local hospital. Next thing I know the hat is passed around and everyone ponies up cash, presumably to help his family.

Spain, being a Catholic country, would not take him off of life support, even though there was nothing further that could be done, he had too much brain damage. The word was that a “donation” was made to the hospital to get him back. He was carried back on board on a stretcher with his face uncovered as if asleep, past the watchful eyes of Spanish authorities. And put right into a waiting walk in reefer. We then sailed to Italy where he was handed off to a USNS something, which got his body to an airport, while we continued our deployment.

First world country. A lot of palm grease got spread around that day.

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While discharging leaded gas in Honduras for Exxon the “Mother” rig arrived from Puerto Rico . The mate was in extreme pain and had to go ashore. I contacted the local officials before their arrival to expedite his care. After almost removing a couple of his vital organs, it was determined he had picked up a parasite in the prior port. Being Master does not ensure quality health care in a foreign port. That same mate years later offered help when a rogue wave blew my windows out. We looked out for each other, no matter who we worked for. Nowadays, it does seem to be a high risk occupation as Master. My couch is firm but soft too. Mailbox is not too far away. Nor is the gas can for the John Deere.


It’s all well and good to swap horror stories about corruption and crime in foreign countries, but this thread was supposed to be about Masters being arrested whenever there is an accident.

That happens more and more and in countries all over the world, not only in proverbial “sh*thole countries”. Often it is based on local Laws, not International Maritime Law,
Like in the case in Sri Lanka:
A Greek owned, Panamanian flag vessel have an explosion in the Engine Rom while in international waters and is abandoned by the crew and Master.
During salvage operation a leak in a tank containing MFO cause an oil slick and the Master is charged for pollution. WTF is going on??

BTW: Try being a foreign seaman arriving in a US port. Lots of horror stories are told about the treatment from local authorities, or of things that happen to them while ashore. (if they get permission to go ashore at all)
I could start a new thread.


I’d be interested in hearing an example or two. Why don’t you start with the incident that happened to you and turned you so bitter?


Sorry Bug, sailors will get much better treatment for their maladies in the USA than Central America. We ain’t perfect by any means, but won’t remove your organs at first analylisis. Off subject perhaps, but as Master talking to another Master setting up this guys hospital visit, I felt a bit responsible and tried to help. Is being Master on a ship high risk? Yes it is. But rewarding at the same time.


It’s unfortunate for the seafarer but you don’t seem to understand that for a clearing CBP officer boarding a ship, granting “permission” to a seafarer who is not in possession of a visa and is a potential “undocumented immigrant” if he decides to jump ship, takes more than a wave of the hand. The officer doesn’t have the resources that a consular officer in the seafarer’s home country has in vetting him when making the decision to issue a visa. Multiply that by however many crewmembers feel like a jaunt in the countryside would be a refreshing change from the confines of the ship and you have a problem.