Rate this article:  

Introduction Maritime incidents tend to be complex, complicated and time-consuming. They usually occur without much prior warning and require quick decisions to be taken, decisions which can have a major impact on the future handling of the incident and on the merits of the consequent claims and liabilities. In the early stages of the incident the personnel that are likely to be most directly affected are the ship’s officers and crew and those shore based personnel designated by the particular organisation to have responsibility for emergency response in one capacity or another. The degree of experience possessed by such personnel will vary but they will all nevertheless, need to take immediate control of the situation.

Similarly, those who subsequently become involved in the handling of claims resulting from such an incident will need to have a firm sense of perspective overall in relation to the control of the claim, They will, no doubt, have assistance from experienced professionals such as surveyors, lawyers, insurance advisers and others. However, they will be the individuals responsible for gathering together the individual pieces of advice from such professionals and for moulding them into a sensible and rational strategy which can best serve the interests of the organisation that they represent.

All such personnel will need to consider issues affecting the ship, the crew, the cargo, the charterers, the authorities, the environment and a host of other interested parties that may have been affected. Their decisions will require an assessment of practical, operational, regulatory, legal and insurance issues. They will also be aware that a decision taken in relation to one issue is likely to have a major impact on all other related issues. They will need to develop a sensible strategy for dealing with all aspects of the incident. Yet, they may not feel confident that they have all the necessary experience or expertise to fully appreciate all the likely ramifications. They will need to decide what needs to be done and when, whom they should involve or consult, and at what stage to do so.

There are very many useful websites, books and other sources that can give detailed and comprehensive assistance in relation to most of the legal, commercial, operational, regulatory and insurance aspects of maritime activity. However, they almost invariably focus on particular issues and do not give an overall, holistic commentary on the various types of problems and claims that can arise as a result of a maritime incident and, in particular, on how various issues interlink. Therefore, the aim of this publication is to identify the legal, practical and insurance problems that arise most frequently as a result of the most common type of maritime incidents, to provide guidance to those who have the responsibility to deal with such problems, and to identify where insurance can provide comfort. It is aimed not so much at the shipping professional but at claims handlers employed by shipping organisations who may feel that they often ‘cannot see the wood for the trees’ and who may be looking for comfort in that regard.

Whilst Gard would normally be involved in one way or another with most of the issues considered in this book, the book is not intended purely for Gard members or assureds but is intended to have wider application and to be of assistance to the shipping community generally.