The Legendary Master
Even though one must be certified by the Flag State to sail as a Master onboard any of their ships, this is not enough to get one command of a shipas a Captain. Owners are very particular about the people they appoint asMasters, since they entrust millions of dollars of ship and cargo to this oneindividual, not to speak of the lives of their crews.
Many countries award different Master’s certification, and sometimes limit
the size (tonnage) of the ship a Captain can command. The highest
certificate is an ‘Unrestricted tonnage’ certificate, which allows a Captain to
command ships of any size without any limitations. Practically, many yearspass by the time a raw cadet gets command, and is typically around 12/15years at sea.Safety and security remains the Captains primary concern. Safety willinclude safety of navigation, personnel, cargo, machinery and theenvironment. Security duties are diverse too, and the Captain must ensurethat the ship follows approved security plans at all times, responding tothreats from pirates, hijackers and other criminals.
Consequences of a Captain’s mistakes
If rules are not followed adequately, the consequences can be disastrous.Ships are routinely detained- at the cost of tens of thousands of dollars aday to the owners- for non-compliance of international regulationspertaining to safety, security or the environment.Oil spills in the event of a leak can result in irreversible damage to theenvironment, along with claims of hundreds of millions of dollars. Mastersand other officers and crew are sometimes arrested and criminallyconvicted for such incidents.Lives may be put at risk if the navigation of a ship is unsafe. Alternately, ifthere is inadequate care of cargo, claims of millions of dollars are possible.And, of course, laxity in security arrangements will endanger the lives of allon board. As an example, thirty five seamen were killed in pirate attacksworldwide last year.