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In two recent incidents reported to Gard by a survey company, surveyors have been attacked by guard dogs kept on board ships. Both incidents were serious. The incidents occurred in China and Mexico. The surveyor attacked in China had to be hospitalised.

Members and other readers are reminded of the risk involved in having guard dogs on board. Whether the dogs belong to shore-side security companies retained at a particular port, or are ship property, the ship’s command should always ensure that the dogs are restrained or at the very least are under supervision of personnel who can control them. The purpose of having the dogs on board is of course loss prevention. Typically the dogs are on board to prevent stowaways, theft, etc. However, if the animals are allowed to attack crew members or other personnel authorised to go on board, the result may be exactly the opposite. Although Gard has not yet received a P&I claim in connection with guard dog attacks it may just be a matter of time.

A potentially difficult situation could arise if a guard dog attacked shore-side personnel boarding a ship in a US port. If the dog was ship property the injured person might well succeed with a significant claim against the ship and her owners.

Whilst the dogs attacking the two surveyors mentioned above were in fact ship property and were normally kept locked up in a pen, it is presumed that in most instances dogs belong to security companies. One may nevertheless assume that a possible claim will be pursued against the vessel owner rather than the security company. A recourse action against the security company may of course be pursued, but to the extent a member is left with final liability the P&I cover will respond.

Focus should be on prevention rather than cure and therefore Gard urges its members to ensure that every effort is made to avoid that such injuries occur. In the aftermath of the incidents experienced by the two surveyors in question, their employer has advised all staff to check before boarding whether there are guard dogs on board. In this respect a warning sign at the gangway may be an appropriate reminder of the presence of dogs.

Gard has been informed that some guard dogs in the US have their tail and ears docked in order that the person being attacked can not get hold of anything. The reflection of the source was: “What a wonderful world we live in!”

Any comments to this article can be e-mailed to the Gard News Editor.

Gard News is published quarterly by Gard AS, Arendal, Norway.