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I read with interest your two reports 'Dutch safety board report challenges onboard authority' and 'Master should have authority during emergencies, New Zealand report finds' in the September/October edition of the Telegraph. It is perhaps interesting that that in both articles, while the investigation teams identify faults and errors by various parties, one advocates the master having overriding authority while the other states that the master should in some cases be overridden!

The Dutch conclusion is based on the assumption that the owner's advice is 'sound' and competent, but who is to judge whether any instruction is 'proper advice' – master or owner? The Dutch conclusion is not in my opinion well-formed or useful, and does not add value to the current situation where masters are obliged by simple mechanics of employment to follow the instructions of their owner, with the authority (and responsibility) to override any unsafe instruction.

Further, I would contend, based on personal experience, that owners are far more likely to propose unsafe or unrealistic courses of action than a master is to disregard 'proper advice', so the current system of checks and balances with 'instructions' from owners subject to the master's ultimate responsibility appears to remain superior to the Dutch proposal to vest all decision making in a single entity, which can only ever be considered effective based on the supposition that the advice or instruction from owner will always be correct. The Dutch conclusion appears to be incompatible with the ISM code, despite their acknowledging the master's 'final responsibility'.

Authority comes hand in hand with responsibility; one goes with the other. When anyone is obliged to follow an instruction, responsibility for the consequences also has to be taken by the party imposing the obligation. Only the individual with final responsibility can 'compel or oblige' and this in my opinion has to remain the master; no interpretation supports a scenario where the master can, or should, be able to be 'obliged or instructed to follow proper advice' – but we remain responsible regardless!

Captain Ruairidh MacAulay

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