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Gard Guidance Masters


The Master should to the fullest extent and as soon as possible, familiarise himself with the vessel when joining the vessel and taking over command. This duty is imposed by the ISM and ISPS Codes which will be set out in the Company’s SMS and SSP, respectively. This is a mandatory requirement as the Master has the overall command of the vessel and is therefore responsible for the crew, the vessel, the cargo carried and the environment. The Company’s instructions and checklists for familiarisation contained in the SMS and SSP will provide a helpful tool and guide.

In order to be prepared for emergency or critical situations which may arise and which affect the vessel’s safety and security, the Master should familiarise himself with the Emergency Response Plans under the vessel’s SMS and the SSP under the ISPS Code.

Familiarisation is best described as

  • to know your duties
  • to know your vessel
  • to know your company’s procedures.These points are dealt with in more detail in the sections below.

    The Master should obtain as much relevant information as possible from the previous Master when joining a new vessel. This will be particularly important should there be an extensive crew change at the same time and all officers are newly assigned to the vessel.

    The procedure of taking over command should be properly documented in the vessel’s SMS records and acknowledged in writing by both the relieving and the relieved Master.