Captains facing a growing problem

Captains facing a growing problem

Captain Jan J Sundberg from Al Mare Consulting reacts to a recent article we carried on crew obesity.

I read an interesting article here at Splash which touched the challenges around crew obesity and it triggered me to wonder and ponder a bit around the big picture global obesity challenges we are facing.

Obesity is a problem and proven to hamper ‘normal’ physiological activity and performance to various extents especially in stress environments with very little time at hand.

Imagine the future with possibly several thousand obese passengers onboard a mega cruise liner in an abandon ship and mass evacuation scenario.

People with knowledge around the strict liability for the captain should start to ask the questions:
Can the captain limit his/her liability in proven obesity cases?

We have a lot of rules and regulations for crew and their fit for duty but we have no criteria or measures to evaluate passengers.

As a captain, myself, I have no problems or judgments around physiological performance, appearance and so forth and all people are good indeed. I have my own fair share of experience with my own obesity problems in the past.

But, I do have some cognitive challenges with the current legislation and liability around the fair and reasonable aspect.

Imagine, if I or any fellow captain needs to abandon a ship in the future for whatever reason and one will go to jail just because people did not manage to help themselves to the extent that is needed in any abandon ship or mass evacuation.

The above is serious enough and a reminder that we are always better positioned by making sure that the ship and all onboard are safe and sound and no mass evacuation is needed but it does not change the challenges.

Maritime law gives in principle everyone involved the possibility to limit liability by various strategic risk transfer measures which is handy indeed but, the captain does not have this handy luxury and maybe we need to think a bit harder, smarter and upgrade the legislation and liability aspects to reflect current and future challenges for the captain as well.

Creating meaningfulness and balanced certainty while facing and controlling new growing risk and its consequences is needed and most importantly to attract the future fine young next generation(s) towards shipping and the growing cruise business.

Maritime law in general, and any law for that matter, is to create certainty around risk and consequence in all business activities but, one can easily argue that prevailing stagnated laws and adding the ever-growing physiological challenges, falls directly onto the captain alone as an additional risk which he or she cannot control and was never a part of the education or job description operationally or legally.

Fair and reasonable legislation is truly needed as our ships, crew and passengers are growing!

Related Posts


  1. Avatar
    hard sur
    January 4, 2017 at 10:48 am

    If the risks are to burdensome quit the captaining business and see the world economy grind to a halt.

  2. Avatar
    January 5, 2017 at 9:50 am

    now that’s a long shot: I could understand insurance for example [even that is an overextension] but regulation???
    sailors must be able bodied and fit to their tasks because it is their duty to support passengers, obese or not for the latter
    I do not really see why the reverse should also hold true
    Perhaps we can also ban handicapped people from going to cruises?