Rate this article:  

Table of contents

Gard Guidance Masters


Not long after publication of the first edition of Gard Guidance to Masters it became necessary to print further copies due to the demand from all corners of the maritime industry: Masters and officers – who were and still are the main addressees of this guidance, claims handlers working within ship operators and insurance intermediaries, nautical training establishments and even maritime lawyers. Thus, it was no surprise that the need arose to revise the first edition, especially in view of the rapidly changing legal and technical environment of the maritime industry during the last five years.

Again, the emphasis was placed on simplicity and directness of the guidance provided. Some parts of the guidance had to be restructured, some relocated to consolidate subjects of a similar nature, others, such as the liquid cargo section, were expanded.

Additionally, the subject of security had to be dealt with in more detail. The aftermath of 11 September 2001 and subsequent new legislation in the form of the ISPS Code, imposed new burdens upon seafarers to an extent which could not have been imagined before. Although seafarers of all nationalities have an important role in the fight against terrorism, they are, nevertheless, often treated as unwanted aliens. Ships and crews have increasingly become the target of pirates and are seen as pawns in their criminal efforts to obtain money. In addition, seafarers are also increasingly criminalised for the slightest failure occurring on board the ship.

This development has to be seen against the increasing shortage of qualified and professional seafarers, as already mentioned in the preface to the first edition. In an attempt to compensate for the reduced number of crews, advanced electronic equipment has been developed and installed on vessels at a breathtaking speed. The legislative demand to make comprehensive use of an unaccountable number of navigational and engineering instruments and displays, distract Masters, officers and crews from the proper application of the basic skills of seamanship and human common sense.

Unfortunately, accidents which could have been avoided, and which must be avoided in future, still occur, often with fatal consequences. This is in spite of considerable efforts in loss prevention activities, such as Gard’s ‘gardyourship’- concept, Loss Prevention Circulars and Compilations, backed up by their series of Guidance and completed by the detailed Gard Handbook of P&I Insurance and the Gard Handbook on Protection of the Marine Environment. An international survey revealed that many seafarers admitted that they frequently breach safety instructions, bringing with it the risk of injury, death or damage to the marine environment or property. This demonstrates the continuing need for simple, easy to read and understandable guidance on how to prevent accidents and – if they nevertheless do occur – to be prepared to react appropriately. This is not only a mandatory requirement under the International Safety Management (ISM) Code, but a basic requirement in the safe operation of vessels.

The second edition of Guidance to Masters was written in an attempt to provide guidance and support to the Master and the officers, but not to interfere in any way with directives or instructions of the Company or any legislative requirements. It may be considered as a pragmatic description and illustration of complicated laws and circulars issued by the various safety agencies.

Part 1 describes the purpose and structure of this Guidance to Masters. In addition, the various loss prevention activities of Gard are also explained. In an attempt to shed some light on the complex distinctions between P&I and Hull and Machinery, a brief explanation is provided. For further details, please refer to the more voluminous Gard Handbook on P&I Insurance.

Part 2 constitutes the heart of this Guidance to Masters and focuses on loss prevention in the widest possible sense, taking into account the experience and expertise, not only of the entire editorial committee, but that of all of Gard and the writer’s own experience. The sections were arranged in the sequence of the workflow: from taking over command or commencing service; care for proper crewing; providing a safe and secure environment; maintaining a technically fit vessel, including cargo holds and gear; describing the properties of selected cargoes; preparing for the voyage, including voyage management and watchkeeping, until something occurs which may affect the performance of the voyage – the latter of which will hopefully never happen.

And finally, Part 3 provides general as well as specific incident response advice, in alphabetical order, in respect of different scenarios. Again, Part 3 of the Gard Guidance to Masters is not intended to interfere with any Emergency Contingency Plan as provided by the Company or specific response plan as required by national or international authorities. It shall serve as a quick indicator for what needs to be done and to be collected from an insurance point of view, to defend or reduce a claim made against the vessel and the Company.

As Gard has expanded to provide not only P&I, but also Hull and Machinery insurance cover, due consideration has been given to those aspects as well, as these are also of concern to the Master and the officers. Equally, the term ‘vessel’ was used to reflect the wider scope of cover for all types of floating devices provided by Gard.

It is again hoped that the Master and the officers may make use of this Guidance to Masters as a tool to prevent incidents and accidents. It should be read either before taking over command or commencing service or in conjunction with the progress of the voyage. It may also serve as training material in conjunction with the Company’s other training materials. In any case, this Guidance to Master should be readily available to all members of the crew assigned to take over responsibility for any shipboard operations which require concise knowledge for a proper and safe performance.

It is finally hoped that no Master or officer will be required to make use of Part 3 of this Guidance to Masters. But should this occur, nevertheless, Gard and the author trust that the Master and the officers will have a useful guide ready to hand to assist them through the demands of an incident, in order to reduce its consequences as much as possible.

October 2006
Ronald Wöhrn, Lawyer, Master Mariner, FNI