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Old 24-01-2012, 12:06   #1
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Legal Obligations - Captain / Master Private Vessel

Hi all: I'm sure this has been discussed before, but I searched and can't find it (I can never really find anything with the search engine here). Anyway, I'm trying to understand (just out of curiosity) what the legal obligations are for captain/master of a private vessel (other than the vague 'safety of the vessel and its crew and/or passengers' - or maybe that's it?), and who has jurisdiction in territorial vs international waters.

For instance (and I'm not really interested in this specific case, just an example), suppose you were at sea in a bad storm and someone died for whatever reason (let's say dehydration or drowning); to make it worse, let's say you made a "bad decision," like maybe you pushed on when there was an uncertain (but not compelling) weather forecast. Are you legally at fault for a criminal or civil infraction?

Thanks for the input as always. pete
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Old 24-01-2012, 12:29   #2
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Re: Legal obligations, captain/master private vessel

Depends on the incident and the waters you're in. "At sea" can (and probably does) mean you're in the territorial waters of a given nation, and subject to their rules. There are international regulations, quasi international regulations (MARPOL, as an example), national, and regional.

The guy Gabe Watson, who killed his new wife scuba diving in Australia, got charged by the local DA back in the USA, because (the DA argued) that the crime was planned there.

Gabe Watson Charged With Wife's Scuba-Diving Murder After Return to U.S. - ABC News

So basically there is a tangled web out there. Even here in the US there is overalapping and fractured law enforcement. The local police don't care if you're smoking pot on your boat (it's legal in California under a variety of mechanisms, provided you're not operating the vessel), but the Coast Guard has a zero tolerance policy and will impound on sight.
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Old 24-01-2012, 12:53   #3
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Re: Legal obligations, captain/master private vessel

I think the short answer is "yes" you can be held criminally and civilly responsible for whatever happens on your boat. When you are the captain, you are responsible for the safety of the boat and the crew.

Scott
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Old 24-01-2012, 12:57   #4
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Re: Legal obligations, captain/master private vessel

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Originally Posted by s/vPainkiller View Post
I think the short answer is "yes" you can be held criminally and civilly responsible for whatever happens on your boat. When you are the captain, you are responsible for the safety of the boat and the crew.

Scott
Based on...?
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Old 24-01-2012, 13:00   #5
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Re: Legal obligations, captain/master private vessel

Here is a start........

Quote:
The owner, master, or person in charge of each vessel underway shall ensure that:
Navigation under way: General.

NavRules Frequently Asked Questions
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Old 24-01-2012, 13:01   #6
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Re: Legal obligations, captain/master private vessel

Tradition, precedence, and maritime law.
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Old 24-01-2012, 13:14   #7
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Re: Legal obligations, captain/master private vessel

Before we get too far off track here, I wasn't asking about nav rules (of course if you don't follow them you are at fault). I know that the captain/master is responsible for the safety of the vessel and crew (I said that in my post). I'm asking something beyond this. Another example: if someone get's swept overboard by a giant wave because you knowingly sailed into an area where giant waves might exist, are you liable? I'm pretty sure this isn't covered in the nav rules...
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Old 24-01-2012, 13:20   #8
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Re: Legal obligations, captain/master private vessel

In order for you to be liable for ANYTHING, you have to knowingly do something wrong. Not just dumb, but wrong.

In your example, it would result in an argument and a judge would hear the sides and decide. Now then, if there was a severely chafed safety line, and it could be proved that people had warned you of it previously, you went out in a hurricane. The victim didn't want to go but you slipped them a sleeping pill and then cast off, your liability goes up exponentially. It's impossible to answer an open ended what if question, and even if we could, a Judge might think differently.
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Old 24-01-2012, 13:28   #9
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Re: Legal obligations, captain/master private vessel

To answer your hypothetical scenario, I guarantee that the heirs of the person swept overboard will sue you (assuming you are a US citizen). Will you go to jail or pay a large sum to the heirs? It probably depends on how good your lawyer is. C'mon. It's all grey area. If you follow prudent seamanship, you are likely to come out ok in the end, even if someone gets hurt. If you take risks, you open yourself up to liability.

I know someone who makes offshore crew sign a liability waiver stating that they know there are inherent risks with going to sea. IE, you might get swept overboard by a giant wave. That may cover you, but I'm not an attorney.

Scott
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Old 24-01-2012, 13:32   #10
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Re: Legal obligations, captain/master private vessel

It could also come down to what a jury rules.
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Old 24-01-2012, 13:45   #11
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Re: Legal obligations, captain/master private vessel

Quote:
Originally Posted by pete33458 View Post
Before we get too far off track here, I wasn't asking about nav rules (of course if you don't follow them you are at fault). I know that the captain/master is responsible for the safety of the vessel and crew (I said that in my post). I'm asking something beyond this. Another example: if someone get's swept overboard by a giant wave because you knowingly sailed into an area where giant waves might exist, are you liable? I'm pretty sure this isn't covered in the nav rules...
If your driving a car that gets in an accident. The passenger gets killed, that wasn't wearing a seat belt. What do you think is going to happen to you.
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Old 24-01-2012, 13:48   #12
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Re: Legal obligations, captain/master private vessel

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Originally Posted by delmarrey View Post
If your driving a car that gets in an accident. The passenger gets killed, that wasn't wearing a seat belt. What do you think is going to happen to you.
I don't know the answer to that question either
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Old 24-01-2012, 13:49   #13
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Re: Legal obligations, captain/master private vessel

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I don't know the answer to that question either
Well then, don't take on any passengers.
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Old 24-01-2012, 13:49   #14
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Re: Legal obligations, captain/master private vessel

If you arrive in port having lost some crew overboard for whatever reason, you will need to use some persuasion on the police and the judge. They are convinced that a substantial proportion of people falling overboard are in fact victims of murder. Indeed, it's the perfect crime, even if the body is recovered: the person just drowned, there are no incriminating traces...

Alain
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Old 24-01-2012, 13:54   #15
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Re: Legal obligations, captain/master private vessel

Some light reading

http://www.ifsma.org/fairtreatment/d...ommandGold.pdf
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