This article deals with the distinction between crew negligence and crew incompetence, which is of crucial importance within the context of marine cargo and insurance claims. Whether a shipowner is answerable to another party, such as cargo owners and charterers, or whether he will be deprived of rights he may have against insurers, for example, may be determined by whether the vessel was seaworthy and in turn, this may be dependent on whether the crew's actions, or inactions (if causative) resulted from their negligence or incompetence. The article explains the different types of incompetence as derived from the existing case law, including lack of adequate rest which the author argues is a potential form of crew incompetence. In addition, the article draws attention to the multi-cultural manning of a ship and the fact that a crew can be collectively incompetent as a unit, rather than individually.
Further, the article looks at the issue of due diligence of the shipowner and the required standard. This can relate to both the general and the specific competence of a crew member (i.e. in relation to the vessel and voyage in question). It includes the initial selection appointment of a crew member, the continuous supervision and training and whether there has been sufficient due diligence to discover latent incompetence and emergency preparedness. Seaworthiness is a non-delegable duty and this is highlighted in the context of crew competence when crew selection and training are in issue. Further, the article briefly deals with insurance claims and highlights the privity of the shipowner as assured as well as reviewing the position in relation to collision claims. Finally, it looks at the effect of the main industry standards, such as the ISM Code and the revised STCW Convention, on these issues.