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October 24, 2005

Warning on fake seafarer documentation

The North of England P&I club is warning of the dangers of hiring incompetent crewmembers--who have either false documentation or an otherwise undetected inability to carry out routine yet fundamentally important tasks such as watchkeeping.

In the latest edition of its loss prevention newsletter Signals, the club reports it has recently experienced a number of examples where the documentation of employed crewmembers has subsequently proved to be a forgery.

"The possible consequences of having an inexperienced crewmember on board are enormous," says Tony Baker, head of North of England's risk-management department. "For example, not checking on cargo properly can cause loss of the entire consignment--and a navigational error can result in a collision or grounding."

Baker points out that while many shipowners use pre-employment medicals to assess the physical condition of potential crewmembers, they or their manning agents still tend to rely on certificates and seaman's books to assess seafaring skills.

"In an ideal world such evidence should be sufficient," he says. "Unfortunately the Association has seen a number of examples where documentation appears genuine at first sight but, on closer inspection, has clearly been falsified."

North of England is thus warning members that as well as reasonable health checks for all would-be crewmembers, shipowners or their manning agents should run further checks to be absolutely certain that applicants are also properly qualified and experienced for their employment.

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