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What do you understand by unseaworthy vessel within the meaning of the MSA 1958 as amended? What according to you is the difference between unseaworthy and unsafe ship? What are the obligation of the owner to crew with respect seaworthiness?

In the M.S. Act 1958 of India as amended the meaning of unseaworthy ship and unsafe ship is as follows:-

Under section 334 a ship is said to be unseaworthy "when the materials of which she is made, her construction, the qualification of the master, the number, description, and qualification of the crew including officers, the weight, description, and stowage of the cargo and ballast, the condition of her hull and equipment, boilers and machinery are not such as to render her in every respect fit for the proposed voyage or service."

Under section 336, an unsafe ship may be defined an unsafe ship, that is to say, is by reason of the defective condition of her hull, equipment or machinery, or by reason of overloading or improper loading, unfit to proceed to sea without serious danger to human life, having regard to the nature of service for which she is intended.

Now we will discuss the difference of unseaworthy ship and unsafe ship in detail. 

First, we will see the unseaworthy ship:-
  1. A ship is unseaworthy when the material which she is made and her construction and design is faulty and not as per laid down-regulation.
  2. A ship is unseaworthy when its master, officers, and crew are not qualified and are not as per the safe manning of the ship.
  3. Not having enough certificates according to the law make the ship unseaworthy.
  4. A ship is said to be unseaworthy when the machinery or equipment is missing which should have been installed as per any regulation.
  5. An unseaworthy ship poses a serious threat to human life.
  6. A ship is said to be unseaworthy when its machinery or equipment is not able to perform its duties for the intended voyage.
  7. Wrong weight, description, and stowage of cargo and ballast make the ship unseaworthy for the voyage.

Now take the case of Unsafe ship:-
  1. A ship is said to be unsafe when the hull and equipment are temporarily defective and the ship is unsafe for that proposed voyage.
  2. A ship is said to be unsafe when its master, officers, and crew are qualified but do not follow the safe working practices.
  3. Not maintaining the required provisions laid down in certificates can make the ship unsafe during the voyage.
  4. A ship is said to be unsafe if the machinery or equipment is placed on board but found not working or the maintenance plan is not being followed.
  5. An unsafe ship does not pose a serious threat to human life.
  6. A ship is said to be unsafe when its machinery or equipment is operated wrongly at any instance by the ship's crew on the voyage.
  7. Wrong procedure of ballasting, deballasting or negligence of crew towards stowage of cargo makes the ship unsafe any instance during the voyage.

In a broad perspective or loosely we can say that unseaworthiness depends on design factors and physical factors. Also unseaworthy is a condition.
But ship becomes unsafe due to human factors. It is an act.
Obligation of owner to crew with respect to seaworthiness
  1. In every contract of service, express or implied between the owner of an Indian ship and the master or any seaman thereof, and in every contract of apprenticeship whereby any person is bound to serve as an apprentice on board any such ship, there shall be implied, notwithstanding any agreement to the contrary, an obligation on the owner that such owner and the master, and every agent charged with the loading of such ship or the preparing thereof for the sea, or the sending thereof to sea, shall use all reasonable means to ensure the seaworthiness of such ship for the voyage at the time when such voyage commences, and to keep her in a seaworthy state during the voyage.
  2. For the purpose of seeing that the provisions of this section have been complied with, the Central Government may, either at the request of the owner or otherwise, arrange for a survey of the hull, equipment or machinery of any sea-going ship by a surveyor.


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