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post #16 of Old 07-02-2013 Thread Starter
Roger Long
Retired Naval Architect
Join Date: May 2012
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Re: Are You The Operator Underway?

Originally Posted by Tempest View Post
I certainly assume that level of responsibility on my vessel, regardless of who's at the helm.
Originally Posted by BubbleheadMd View Post
I think this "operator" crap dilutes the concept of responsibility and accountability.

If you are the "captain" of a vessel, be it 10 feet long, or 1,000 feet long, you are, and should be responsible for anything that happens onboard. You can delegate authority (placing someone at the helm) but not responsibility.

Originally Posted by Tempest View Post
I don't think the new regs. relieve the captain/owner completely of any responsibility. If someone turns over the helm to an unlicensed or intoxicated operator, they will be held additionally responsible.
Admirable sentiments and anyone willing to step up and take full responsibility deserves respect. However, it may not be up to you. In Canada, they aren't even going to ask or care whose boat it was, just whose fingers were on the wheel.

Certainly the captain/owner will have some responsibility and culpability if the helm is turned over to someone not up to the task. However, the fact that the person steering under your direction and command could be considered at all responsible is something that you must disclose to anyone before letting them steer. You could lie later and say you were steering but then we're talking possible perjury.

The way it as always been at sea, and the way it should be, is that an inappropriate action with the helm that results in damage or injury is an issue between the master and the person at the helm. For all other parties, including any other guests or crew who may be injured, the captain is totally responsible and at fault. Part of the responsibility of command is assessing the capability of crew members and how much direction they need. If you get it wrong, you are responsible, even if the person you turned the deck over to decides to make a 90 degree turn in a straight channel he's navigated many times before. Ask Captain Hazelwood of the Exxon Valdez. The mate's actions were incomprehensible but Hazelwood stepped up as if he had turned the wheel himself and paid the price.

You don't have that option under this emerging concept. If you told a guest to just steer for that island, directed them over a shoal, and their pockets are a lot deeper than yours, you can be sure they will be drawn into the lawsuit even though they had no more responsibility than an autopilot.

Given the widespread understanding of traditional responsibility at sea, it is irresponsible not to inform people you let take the wheel of this fact.
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