Deviation to save life at sea


Published: 12 December 2014

Members will know of the duty to save life at sea, and while nothing should hinder or restrict a master from pursuing that duty it will inevitably be a question as to who will cover the time, fuel and other costs that may be involved in such an operation.

Saving life at sea (Source: Paula Anddrade)

The situation

As a result of the continuing situation in the Mediterranean the Association has had repeat questions from members about the financial cost of complying with the legal obligation on masters to assist distressed persons at sea and to follow the instructions of government authorities to participate in search & rescue operations.

While the obligation to assist is clear, as are the possible criminal and civil legal consequences of failing to do so, it may not be an entirely straight forward consideration as to where the cost will fall as between an owner or a charterer (and their respective insurers, to a certain degree).

In the attached note, Messrs. Hill Dickinson review the position under English law with respect to both the legal obligation to render assistance as well as the charterparty consideration of who will bear the time, fuel and other costs associated with the rescue.

Skuld cover

Skuld's P&I cover is in a position to assist shipowners whose vessels have deviated for the purpose of saving life at sea and for subsequently taking those saved to place for safety ashore.

With respect to a charterer's possible liability in such a situation, Skuld's dedicated charterers' rules can provide liability cover.

In so far as there may be disputes between owners and charterers as to the actual deviation and who will bear what element of the cost incurred, members with Skuld FD&D cover will be able to have the advice and assistance of our defence staff.

It must be kept in mind, however, that basic P&I cover does not address the loss of time which may arise from deviations connected with the saving of life at sea. Such cover may, however, be afforded by way of loss of hire / business interruption insurance and Skuld is able to assist members with respect to such cover through its Syndicate 1897 at Lloyds'.

Further loss prevention material

The Association has covered the situation in the Mediterranean in detail and members are able to find further significant resources here: Refugees and Migrants.

Should members have a vessel specific query they are asked to contact their usual Skuld Business unit.

The Association is grateful to Messrs. Hill Dickinson in assisting the Association with this update.