P&I Correspondents Legal Assistance In Criminal Cases

It often happens that Shipowners deal with criminal affairs in crew claims. Criminal aspect is very important because it also affects the settlement of civil and contractual liability claim. Therefore in criminal cases, legal assistance of P&I Correspondent is extremely important especially in the initial stage of the claim, i.e. during the process of collecting the evidence, witnesses statements, discussion of the circumstances of the case with Master, crew, police, and Public Prosecutor. P&I Correspondent should be appointed and instructed immediately in case of a criminal affair with vessel and crew involvement. Moreover, ship arrest for collection of evidence onboard within the criminal investigation has not any limitation in time, and appeal the arrest in criminal procedure is a quite lengthy and complicated process. Final outcome and sum of compensation in cases with criminal aspects depends on timely and qualified involvement of P&I Correspondent. Case study During anchorage of a vessel at the port, crewmember reported stomach pain and vomiting and went to his cabin for rest but did not request urgent medical assistance. As his health condition got worse, the Master requested the agent’s assistance in arranging seafarer’s disembarkation and hospitalization ashore by launch boat. Unfortunately, during the evacuation, the seafarer passed away. The Police was notified and boarded the vessel for the commencement of the criminal case and investigation. The Master was invited for interrogation at the police office. We were invited as legal correspondents and managed to meet the Master on board to discuss the incident before the official interrogation. It was found that bottle with technical liquids with label “Ethyl” was absent at the engine room box specially designated for storage of technical liquids for cleaning the electrical equipment. This empty bottle with label “Ethyl” was found at the cabin of the late seafarer. We took relevant photos. Master was interrogated at the police office in the presence of P&I Correspondent. The relevant statements have been prepared and given to the police investigator with the request to carry out the autopsy and toxicology examination of the deceased. The deceased seafarer's family hired a lawyer. As a result of our legal defense, the vessel was not detained; all search actions were carried out onboard by the investigator before the completion of the cargo operations. During one month, we obtained the results of the toxicology analysis examination. Ethyl concentration at the blood of the deceased was found by the forensic experts, the same ethyl parameters were found at the labeled bottle at deceased’s cabin. Thus, the criminal case was closed on the basis of the toxicology report and local court rejected the claimant’s lawyer’s request to resume the criminal case and cancel the resolution on the closure of criminal case as per deceased’s family request. The feature of such cases is that in case of absence of Master’s and Shipowners’ liability in a criminal case, there are not any civil liability, i.e., there are not any legal grounds for death compensation claims after the closure the criminal case.


Due to legal assistance arranged by Legal P&I Correspondent, several legal problems have been solved:

• The vessel sailed in time without detention or delay.

• The criminal case was closed and it was a legal basis to reject the following civil claim.

• It was proved that Shipowners and Master are not liable for seafarer’s death and any legal grounds for death compensation claims are absent.

P&I Correspondents recommendations:

• Contact P&I Legal Correspondents immediately to come to the vessel and discuss the incident with the Master, ship’s officers, and other witnesses.

• Collect pieces of evidence relating to the alleged criminal case, interview crew and obtain relevant statements duly signed and sealed by ship’s stamp. All collected legal evidence should be forwarded to Shipowners/Club by P&I Correspondents without any delay.

• All crew’s statements should be studied thoroughly by legal P&I Correspondent before submitting to the investigator and court, and in case of any discrepancies or uncertainties, crewmembers shall give clarifications and make relevant corrections to the wording of statements.

• Help the Master during interrogation, submit an attorney-at-law certificate to the police investigator or Public Prosecutor as only a certified attorney-at-law can participate in criminal proceedings.

• Keep constant contact with police and request all official documents from the police authorities and Public Prosecutor.

• P&I Correspondents should be onboard as much as needed to monitor all authorities’ actions and assist the Master till the investigation is completed.

• After vessel sailing, maintain contacts with police investigator, experts, claimants’ lawyer in order to obtain a full set of evidence during the investigation.