What do you tell the judge when it all goes pear-shaped? In the unfortunate event that an accident happens onboard your yacht, as captain or head of department you’ll have to demonstrate a good safety culture and responsible record keeping, so it’s important to keep your paperwork in order as a matter of course.
If you are a captain or an HOD, here are some of the steps you’ll need to take (not necessarily in this order) when an accident happens onboard your yacht.
- Protect the lives of crew and passengers
- Protect the environment
- Maintain the vessel as a safe haven as long as possible
- Contact the relevant authorities
- Contact the management company ashore
- Protect yourself
In this context, ‘protect yourself ‘ means you need to gather all relevant documentation, records, licenses, familiarizations, crew contracts, insurance policies, maintenance records, hours of rest, safety meetings, passage plans, risk assessments and drill reports so you look like the professional yacht captain that you are. Owners, insurance companies, flag state inspectors, management companies, lawyers and police will look more favorably on someone who is organized and can demonstrate good record keeping.
During an accident investigation, especially if it concerns serious injury or loss of life, the investigators or lawyers may also ask if you carried out a safety familiarization with the crew and guests. They may ask you to provide evidence of the risk assessments that were conducted and whether they were revised in the last 12 months. You may also have to prove that you inspected the LSA, FFE and bilge alarms monthly and annually, and that you followed the procedures outlined in your safety management system. The insurance company will want to see all crew certificates and employment contracts, all vessel certificates and your passage plan.
And remember, your flag state authority and DPA are there to assist you, so involving them in the process suggests that you have an effective safety culture onboard.
Fundamentally, protecting yourself means you are protecting the interests of the owner, which is why they employed you in the first place. If you fail to do this, you risk losing your job and in some cases you may even be sued for negligence. Either way the outcome will not be good.
Written by: Dave Clarke
By Kind permission of Onboardonline.com