All mariners will know that record keeping can be a monotonous and time consuming task. As a result sometimes mariners are tempted, for various reasons, to cut corners or ‘flog the log’. In this article we look at recent incidents where inaccurate record keeping has harmed the handling and settlement of claims.

Reefer Temperatures Logs - Stretching the Truth

Under the charter party the crew were required to record the temperatures of all containers on a daily basis. The containers were stowed on deck and - contrary to the tier weights advised in the cargo securing manual – were often stowed 3 high due to the pressure of the trade.

Flog the Log

Reefer temperature logs were submitted in response to a cargo claim. When asked how the crew were able to take the temperatures of reefer containers on the second and third tiers the ship operator admitted that they did not know.It was not physically possible to have recorded these temperatures. It was only possible to record the temperatures on the first tier on deck which was where the damaged container was stowed. But because the other temperatures recorded were almost certainly ‘flogged’ - this meant that all the reefer temperature logs were in doubt and could not be used as evidence. If for any reason you are unable to maintain routine record keeping contact your shore management immediately for advice.

An "Off Day" ?

In another case the remote monitoring temperature records were complete for a container on which a cargo damage claim was being made. They showed there was nothing wrong with the container temperature. However, the ship also sent photocopied pages of the engine room work note book. On one of those pages was an entry stating ‘Power off 440 volt deck sockets’. There was no reason given and there was no entry after that showing what time the power may have been restored. Because of this it was not possible to avoid the US $60,000 claim and the best deal was a US $30,000 settlement. The remark in the engine room work note book ‘cost’ US $30,000! If another remark showing why power was off or when it had been restored had been included the claim may have been avoided entirely.

Always make sure that records are full and complete

Hold Ventilation Logs

The ship sent ventilation logs for the voyage. Rather than follow the simple 3 degree rule for agricultural cargoes the ship recorded outside dew point temperatures from the bridge and dew point temperatures in the hold. The ship also submitted cargo fumigation documents which stated ‘crew not to enter the hold for 72 hours after sailing’. The obvious question was – how did the crew obtain the hold dew point temperatures and why were they recorded from the first The obvious answer was that the crew did not enter the holds and the dew points were made up. The ship did not even have a whirling hygrometer for measuring dew points in the holds! This meant that no reliance could be placed on the ventilation records submitted by the vessel a key factor in defending the claim.

On the Bridge or Not

Following a grounding the ship was asked for evidence which included the bridge team’s written statements and the hours of work/rest records. In the Master’s statement he said that he was on the bridge from 06:00hours which was two hours before arrival. In the hours of work/rest records the master was shown as working 08:00 to 12:00 on that day.The VDR proved the Master’s written statement was correct. This put into question the hours of work/rest records for the whole ship and made it more difficult to use the ‘error in navigation’ defence.The best evidence is contemporaneous – in other words it is recorded or collected at the time it occurred. Don’t fill in records in advance or after the fact.

Top Tip

Remember in the event of claim the available evidence will be carefully scrutinised, often by experts. ‘Flogged’ evidence will be easy to spot and, when spotted, will harm the defence of the claim.