Cowards On The Bridge

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April 1, 2010

Cowardice is rarely an adjective that MAC has ever applied to seafarers. It is one that we do so now, for a particularly shameful breed of gutless and incompetent masters who clearly ignored the pleas of a vessel in distress. Every single one of these ‘officers’ lacked the leadership, and the sense of honour required of their rank. For now the names of these creatures who refused to go to the help of their fellow seafarers are unknown.

It is worthless to expect such worthless examples of cowardice to hang their heads in shame, for they have none.

Their fellow officers will know who they are, and those officers would be wise to to refuse to be in the same bridge, and be tainted with the same shade of yellow. Honourable companies will kick these men out of the industry they have disgraced – they have no place on a bridge.

The foregoing opinions are those of MAC, but may be unique.

Here, for reference is the introduction to the latest MAIB Safety Alert. Other may judge whether MAC’s comments are appropriate.

“MAIB is currently investigating the death of a seafarer, during which we have discovered evidence of dereliction of one of the most fundamental duties of the mariner – the moral and legal obligation to go to the aid of those in peril on the sea. Even at the height of war, civilised combatants went to great lengths to save the lives of sailors from enemy vessels they had sunk. Yet here we are, in the 21st Century, finding ships failing to respond to Mayday messages.

“In the case we are investigating, poor visual lookout meant that most of the major vessels within 10 miles of the sinking vessel reportely failed to see a series of distress flares. This in itself is disappointing, but even more alarmingly, most of the same ships also failed to respond to the Mayday Relay, issued several times by the Coastguard. Some claimed not to have heard the VHF (poor standards of watchkeeping again); some claimed not to have received the DSC distress alerts (!); and some masters claimed not to understand that they have a legal (and moral) duty to react.

“SOLAS is quite clear on the subject:
“Regulation 33 – Distress Situations: Obligations and Procedures
The master of a ship at sea which is in a position to be able to provide assistance,
on receiving information from any source that persons are in distress at sea, is bound to proceed with all speed to their assistance, if possible informing them or the search and rescue service that the ship is doing so. This obligation to provide assistance applies regardless of the nationality or status of such persons or the circumstances in which they are found. If the ship receiving the distress alert is unable or, in the special circumstances of the case, considers it unreasonable or unnecessary to proceed to their assistance, the master must enter in the log-book the reason for failing to proceed to the assistance of the persons in distress, taking into account the recommendation of the Organization to inform the appropriate search and rescue service accordingly.”

”I approached the senior management of each of the ships involved. I am pleased to report that all reacted with horror that their vessels had not responded, and took urgent action to instruct all their ships to respond properly to such situations in the future.

”I would urge all companies and mariners to remember that this requirement is not optional.

”It is also not up to coastal stations to call ships with a request to assist; in such circumstances it is the duty of every “master of a ship at sea which is in a position to be able to provide assistance” to at least call the search and rescue service and then respond to their instructions.”

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