London P&I Club Weighs in on Stowaways & Crew abandonment Issues

Published Jan 3, 2011 10:24 AM by The Maritime Executive

Both matters at the top of Club’s priorities.

London P&I Club Chairman welcomes developments on crew abandonment liability

John M Lyras, Chairman of The London P&I Club, has welcomed amendments to legislation proposed by governments, making shipowners liable for the abandonment of crew, following bankruptcy.

Writing in The London P&I Club’s 2009 Annual Report, Mr Lyras says that, as originally proposed, the government initiatives, including compulsory insurance, would effectively transfer the cost of caring for crew from “less responsible owners to those who take their obligations more seriously”. He adds that the compulsory insurance would effectively be designed to cover a credit risk – “a type of risk transfer that has always been very difficult to price properly and fairly”.

Pointing out that The London P&I Club, together with other members of the International Group, felt it would be inappropriate for clubs to insure and certify cover against uncontrolled obligations incurred prior to abandonment, Mr Lyras says, “It was reassuring to hear from the most recent International Labour Organisation and IMO joint meeting in Geneva that pre-abandonment liabilities to be insured and guaranteed would be limited to those accrued during the final four months of employment. It was more reassuring to learn that the guarantor would be subrogated to the rights of the abandoned crew.

“The International Group Secretariat had made the very important point, in Geneva, that the absence of any subrogation to the crews’ rights of arrest would simply have relieved financiers of their obligations, so encouraging irresponsible lending and increasing the problem of abandonment. I am very grateful to the Group’s Secretariat for its efforts, which appear to have contributed to a decision by governments to introduce a right of subrogation into the relevant convention”.

Latest issue of The London P&I Club’s StopLoss Bulletin highlights an increase in the number of stowaway cases the Club handled during the last year.

The Club says, “Although the greater number of cases is not obviously associated with any particular country or nationality, the 2008 incidents included two occasions on which stowaways from Lagos, Nigeria were found hiding in rudder trunks. In both cases, the stowaways were discovered and detained as they descended from their hiding places at the ship’s next port of call. It is assumed that the men gained access to those hiding places having come under the stern in a small boat.”

The Club continues, “The most remarkable aspect of these cases is that the men survived the sea passage. Almost certainly there are cases where stowaways hide in a rudder trunk only to perish at sea without the crew ever being aware of their presence. The willingness of stowaways to use such a dangerous hiding place appears to have taken the crew in each recent instance by surprise.”

The London P&I Club reminds its members that risk assessments by company and ship security officers should include a review of the dimensions of the rudder trunk and that, if stowaway access is achievable, consideration should be given to whether it is possible to retrofit a metal grill to prevent entry and to conduct searches of the area, prior to departure from port.

Elsewhere in StopLoss, the Club looks at the importance of preserving evidence contained on voyage data recorders; means of controlling safe access on board ships; the need to observe best-practice guidelines for diving inspections; issues specific to the carriage of deck cargoes; and possible causes of ship collisions at anchorage.