Masters under attack?

Are the Master’s legal rights, responsibility and authority under attack in today’s shipping world?

These and other questions will be raised and hopefully answered at this year’s Cadwallader Debate, organised by the London Shipping Law Centre, Maritime Business Forum according to this article in today’s Maasmond News Clippings:

The legal position of the ship’s Master when tackling the day-to-day pressures of today’s shipping industry, will be the subject of this year’s Cadwallader Debate, organised by the London Shipping Law Centre, Maritime Business Forum. The debate, to be held at the Lloyd’s Building in the last week of October, will be chaired by the Lord Clarke of Stone-cum-Ebony and will be attended by over 400 delegates from across ship owning, ship management, insurance, law, class and regulation. Entitled: The Master Under Attack –What is the Legal Position?, the debate will discuss the problems Masters face and suggest possible solutions. The problems include: · Erosion of the Master’s Authority · Increase of the Master’s responsibility · The Master as a legal ‘hostage’ · The powerful position of charterers · The global vulnerability of the Master · External interference · Bullying and harassment by authorities in the port · The demands of modern technology Suggested solutions include the need to support the Master; the need to reinforce his authority – or reduce the liabilities; and the need to consider carefully, the consequences of maintaining the status quo by doing nothing.
For more information about the debate and how to get tickets, please contact Gerard Matthews on +44 (0) 20 7936 3417 or by email:
Professor Cadwallader was a teacher of maritime law to many international students at University College London (UCL) between 1963 and 1982. In tribute to his memory and his contribution to the advancement of knowledge in maritime law, the Cadwallader Lecture was established by London Shipping Law Centre (LSLC) Founder and Chairman, Dr Aleka Sheppard in 1998. Over the years, these prestigious occasions have brought the key maritime players together in a neutral forum for open discussion of the concerns of the industry regarding legislation, thus enabling the sharing of ideas within a friendly intellectual debate. These debates have directly or indirectly engendered further dialogue and have led to action being taken on matters affecting the interests of the industry and the protection of the marine environment. The Cad Lectures and the London Shipping Law Centre’s monthly events have raised the awareness of shipping professionals in safety matters and corporate responsibility beyond mere compliance with regulations.

In addition:
Is this only an International problem, or are American Masters equally threatened, even in domestic trade?
Are there equality before the Law between how national and foreign Masters and other Seafarers are treated in US courts?
VERY important questions, as seen in many resent cases around the world.

there is only one thing which supports any master’s legal position regarding his duties and that is ALL other masters being in solidarity and refusing to subvert any master’s decisions by not assuming a position on a vessel when a master has taken a stand against the owners. This is best accomplished by a union not supplying a replacement to a man removed nor allowing a chief mate they represent to move into the role.

If a master’s position is “protected” and he cannot be sacked by an owner for disobeying orders to support commercial considerations against maintaining safety then he is free to exercise his authority as necessary. As soon as he knows he is likely to be replaced then he has had his legs cut off and is placed in a no win situation where he must cave to pressures of owners or charterers.

Of course, having a flag state government which takes a proactive role in protecting masters also helps but we all know those do not exist, especially the USA.

Also, in many ways the ISM has castrated masters. While every SMS pays lip service to the “master’s overriding authority” it’s only to cover the company’s ass. If you use it and nothing happens you’ve violated the SMS, if you don’t use it and something happens then it’s YOUR fault for not taking action.

That’s why you work for a company that will stand behind you more often than not, and get them involved before the shit hits the fan so there is blood on their hands as well.

“I’ll do it but I have safety concerns about xyz per our policies and my professional judgement, but as my direct supervisor how do you recommend we handle it?”

Doesn’t apply to all situations but helpful in many…