A modular approach to discharging an officer/crew for an act of indiscipline
Masters of merchant ships should not be seen in any haste to discharge a crew, particularly getting caught to have a back-of-the-mind thought
of confirming his reign, his powers on a ship as the ultimate causation for discharging a crew.
Crew should be given ample oppertunity to represent himself, unless ofcourse the act of indiscipline has directly caused a damage to a ship and
requires a very urgent action. Indiscipline acts such a not wearing his uniform, or not coming to watch in time are not so much a serious
indiscipline as they are often made out to be.
Masters must remember that the crew is contracted to work on their ships by the shipping company. Any action of premature discharge will
amount to a 'breach of contract' by that shipping company and in followance of the fair Justice, that shipping company may have to continue to
pay the crew, or to re-hire him for the remaining term of the contract on another vessel in their fleet.
If the crew is amply seasoned, he might follow up his discharge through the shipping authority and this will result into undue delays,
Master and his officers
protected against physical
(man-)handling by crew
through the MSA by way of
the hierarchical justice
Crew is protected by strength
of unity to defend each
other, and everyone from
Master's tyranny and cruelty.
1) An act of alleged indiscipline suffered by
any officer, master
2) This event likely to be in the day's
normal activity , may have a handful
handful of witness, say cadet, one seaman
1) If the show-cause notice is not acctepted by the crew, call
/muster the full crew of the ship, and hand-over the letter
to him in a sealed envelope
2) If still not accepted, make a second log-entry in Ship's
official log book, taking witness signature of all the ship's
compliment who witnessed the defaulter's refusal to accept
the letter ( this is "refusal to accept" log-entry)
Day 1 itself, impromptu
1) Report to master, make an entry into ship's Moment
2) If it is drastic event ,make a record of the event in Ship's
official log book, taking signatures of the witnesses (cadet,
seaman) , and other relevant evidences, such as
photographs, print-outs, etc.
3) Issue a show-cause notice to the crew seeking his
viewpoint on his act of indiscipline
1) Report the matter to the company, to the flag state 2)
Disembark the crew from ship, as he is 'provenly' unsafe for
the ship, crew and it's master
3) Prosecute the matter before the shipping master
4) Ensure that justice is delivered, the case does fall into
Sources of confusion : 'Refusal to sign' did not happen when the crew refused to accept the show-cause/warning letter on
the first day.
Reason : Content of the letter , a "warning letter", tone of letter being that of notifying/alleging, or of seeking a confession
of the indiscipline, instead of seeking the defaulting crew's viewpoint. The language, purpose of the letter, etc may not be
comprehensible to the crew, justifying his stand of refusing to sign.
Reason 2 : Legal prudence . This refusal to accept the (show-cause) letter , along with the previous day's log entry has not
been witnessed by everyone. Hence it can later be alleged that Master , 'in connivance with' certain members of the crew
('this Master's witnesses') secretly and falsably made cartain log entry against some crew/officers without actually notifing
Sources of confusion : Any refusal to sign any paper/document which has been the source of that alleged act of Indiscipline
is also not to be accounted away as "refusal to sign"
Reason : This is that alleged act of refusal for which Show-cause reasons have to sought from the defaulting crew to seek
his side of the story.
Sources of confusion : The second instance of refusal (that of Day 2), is a proven act of indiscipline, witnessed by the entire
Follow-up: This refusal has to be attended-to by the Shipping Master or some shore based authority. This is the true act of
"refusal to sign" for which the defaulting crew must be immediately discharged from the ship. Master of the ship may now
impose an indiscipline-related fine on the defaulting crew . A relevant log entry must be made if the fine is imposed, and
the matter referred to a relevant Shipping Auhority .
Fines are generally restricted to the salary which is due to the crew. In a reverse view, some salary of the crew should
always be paid only after it has become due, this for the unforseen event of disciplinary control.
Source of confusion : "Why should I issue a show-cause and seek the viewpoint of the defaulting crew? Is he ever going to
accept or admit that he has done an indiscipline? It is a wasted exercise."
Resolution : Under the principles of natural justice, under the UN Decl of Human Rights, under the MSA, and all the laws,
this is one most important step where the person being prosecuted is given a fair chance to represent himself before any
justice is delivered. Masters of ships in recent times have argued that "they are not judges or lawyers, hence they are not
going to go into this action". But such argument are only a means to shy away from performing the duty as a person on a
senior management rank. Masters in their capacity are otherwise performing many duties requiring legal skills; they have to
face the on-slaught of law and cannot put any claim of not being a lawyer , or advocate to justify what the normal course of
duty would entail in complaince of the 'due process'.