Record of Log Book Entries / Disciplinary Measures / Chief Officer jobs
The articles of Agreement signed by each seaman state in part the Master and/or Owner has the right to discharge any member of the crew prior to the termination of the voyage by giving prior written notice of such termination to the seamen.
Most countries Maritime Law requires that the Chief Officer jobs shall make entries in the official log book for “every offence in which disciplinary measures have been taken”.
It is not possible to lay down a set of rules that Master is to follow in handling each disciplinary problem, since each case usually has a different set of circumstances. However, we have had occasions where seamen who were supposedly discharged for cause, were not notified in writing, nor were there any entries made in the vessel’s Log Book to justify the discharge. In several cases, seamen who were discharged were actually given a letter of recommendation by the Master or the department head, and subsequently have made demands on the Owner/Principal for either re-employment or wages for the remaining period of their unexpired contract. Without copies of a written notice of discharge or log book entries, these demands have been difficult, if not impossible, to repudiate. This is particularly true in those cases where the seaman has been issued a good discharge or has a letter of recommendation.
It appears that a common mistake made by many Master and department heads is to let first offence of a minor nature go without taking any action whatever, or if a reprimand is given, to make no written record of the fact in the log book. This error of judgement often comes to light later on, when the offender had persisted in his misconduct to the extent that the Master must decide to discharge the seaman. If the Master’s action is then contested, he finds himself unable to substantiate by written record the fact that the offence started some time prior to the time of discharge, and he is therefore unable to justify his action.
If prompt and well-considered action is taken at the outset and is properly recorded in the Log Book, the Master has provided himself with a definite starting point from which to develop his further handling of the case. Surely, if a man’s performance aboard the vessel has been so bad as to warrant discharge for cause, there should be entries in the Log Book sometime during the tenure of his service to substantiate the discharge.
Gross incompetence when supported by sufficient evidence has always been upheld as legal cause for dismissal. To dismiss a seaman for incompetence, however, other than for gross incompetence, must be approached with caution as the courts have already ruled, in some cases, wherein a dismissal based on the attendant facts may be considered a very harsh penalty to impose on the seaman. In cases of this nature, the observance of due process (verbal and written warnings, investigation, opportunity to be heard, witness account, etc) is most desirable prior to dismissal and repatriation of the perpetrator (see Form Ship Owner-C.114).
If a seaman is discharged for disciplinary reason prior to the expiration of his contract, a proper hearing must be conducted onboard (see Form Ship Owner-C.114). The offender must be afforded an opportunity to defend against the offence levied as to bring in his own witnesses. The whole proceedings must be factually recorded, signed and logged including the statement of the witnesses. Upon a decision being taken by the board members to dismiss the offender, he is to be given a letter signed by the Master stating the reason for discharge (see Form Ship Owner-.115).
Should the offender refuse to sign the papers; a notation to that effect must be witnessed and signed by other attendees. Copies of signed Form Ship Owner-C.114 and Form Ship Owner-C.115 including the log extract are to be forwarded to Ship Owner Ship Management within one week after the seaman sign-off from the vessel.
Master should use the appropriate form in the appendix for any termination, disciplinary and dismissal case or early termination request by the seaman.