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The fifth edition of the Gard Handbook on P&I Insurance was published in May 2002. A copy of the publication has been sent, free of charge, to all Gard P&I members and business associates. Further copies can be purchased from Gard AS.

The 5th Edition of the Gard Handbook on P&I Insurance is principally designed to provide a practical introduction to the basic legal principles that govern the relationship between the Gard P&I Club and its members, as well as to the various risks that are covered under the policies offered by Gard. Like earlier editions, the principal purpose of this Handbook is to enable members and other interested parties to better understand P&I club membership and, as a result, derive maximum benefits from the club's underwriting, claims handling, and other services.

It will be noted that previous editions of this Handbook have all differed from each other. This reflected the changing stature of the Gard Club as well as the needs, demands and interests of its membership. The first two editions (edited and compiled by Professor Sjur Brækhus and the late Alex Rein) laid the important groundwork for the Gard Statues and Rules, but for a much smaller club. The third edition (edited and compiled by Jeremy Kingsley) consolidated an increasingly complex set of Rules and, for the first time, also included a survey of some of the key legal principles that affect the demands of modern P&I insurance. The fourth edition (edited and compiled by Simon Poland and Tony Rooth) provided the first complete, practical commentary to a new series of Gard Statutes and Rules.

This new edition has taken a slightly different direction once again. This change is in response to the continuing needs and interests of Gard's growing, diverse membership, the increasingly complex world of the maritime industry, and to reflect further changes in Gard's Statues and Rules. For these reasons it was felt that the new Handbook should not only contain a user friendly commentary on the most important Gard Rules, but also an outline of the legal framework within which such Rules operate. Such a framework, which operates at international, regional and national levels, has become extremely complex and affects all aspects of modern ship operations. In fact, it is probably correct to state that public legal norms, such as those related to maritime safety, marine pollution prevention, personal injury and death, have today overtaken the previous dominance of private legal norms related to the day-to-day operation of ships and their cargoes. In other words, P&I rules must today be understood and applied in this context in addition to their governance of the relationship between club member and P&I club.

Previous editions of this Handbook have also provided a full and complete listing of the Gard Statutes and Rules. Due to frequent changes these are now published in their entirety on an annual basis. Accordingly, listing them in this Handbook is unnecessary. This means that a close examination of the Handbook will now require frequent reference to these annually published Gard P&I Statutes and Rules. It may also be useful to consult other Gard publications, such as the Gard Handbook on Marine Pollution, 2nd Ed., the Gard Guidance to Masters, and Gard's Towards Safer Ships and Cleaner Seas: A Handbook for Modern Tankship Operations.

Due to its dominance in international maritime law, English law is taken as the general point of reference in almost all areas under discussion in this Handbook. However, the increasing importance of US law, especially where it differs widely in many areas, is also given greater prominence in this edition. This was facilitated by the contributions from a number of US maritime law experts. Wherever necessary, references to Norwegian and other national law are also made.

It should be noted that this Handbook is not designed to provide definitive and final answers to the many complex problems Gard Club members may encounter in their varied operational activities. By its very nature, it is a Handbook that is meant to provide an introduction to the issues alone. Many of the legal areas are only outlined and the relevant legislation, case law and treatises must be consulted for further research. Furthermore, nothing in this Handbook should be taken to affect the legal interpretation of Gard's Statutes and Rules, or of any other relationship, whether in contract or otherwise, between members and the Association. If a conflict arises the terms of the Association's Statutes, Rules and existing insurance agreements will prevail. As stated many times in this Handbook, if a member has any doubts about anything, the Association should be consulted!

This Handbook is divided into seven Parts that address:

i. "A Brief Introduction to Marine Insurance"
ii. "The Principles and Operation of P&I Insurance"
iii. "P&I Claims Related to Ship Operations"
iv. "P&I Claims Related to Persons"
v. "P&I Claims Related to Cargo Operations"
vi. "P&I Claims Related to the Protection of the Marine Environment"
vii. "The Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims".

In addition, the Handbook contains a number of relevant appendices, lists of English, US, and other cases, lists of international and national legislation, other introductory material, a select bibliography, and a comprehensive index.

The Handbook refers to the Gard P&I Statutes and Rules as published on 20th February 2001. The law is stated as at 15th January 2002. Although the Handbook has been compiled and reviewed by a number of highly skilled contributors, and every care has been taken to ensure accuracy, neither Gard P&I, Gard AS, the contributors and reviewers, nor the principal author and general editor can be held liable for errors and omissions.