Should the captain go down with the ship?

22 May 2014

2 min read

After the second incident in a span of two years, whereby a captain of a passenger ship abandoned his vessel – the question of whether the captain of sinking vessel has the obligation to stay on board has been raised.

It turns out that there is no international legal obligation for a captain to remain on board. However, many countries have their own laws that regulate such behaviour.

The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, does not dictate that the captain stays on board, but its rules state that the captain is always responsible for the people on board.  The captain is solely responsible for the safety of the vessel and of the people on board, and this does not oblige him to leave a sinking vessel last.

There are also guidelines in the Merchant Marine Officer’s Handbook, which state that the captain should be the last person to leave the vessel. These however are only guidelines and are therefore not binding.

Hence the scenario of a captain going down with a sinking ship, may at this day and age be seen at best, as a fairy tale or at worst as a personal choice!

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