Captain under Vietnamese maritime laws: Who is he and what must he do?

Date: 23 June 2021

Writer: Phuong Nguyen and Quang Nguyen

Shipping by sea is one of the most popular means of commercial transportation of goods. Along with the development, the number of disputes related to this shipping method has been increasing sharply. Many disputes related to ship sinking accidents stem from the fault of the captain and crew members. So, determining their obligations is crucial when resolving such dispute. 

Captain is the person with the highest command of a ship and everyone presenting on it must obey his orders. The Vietnamese Maritime Code 2015 and its guiding documents clearly specify obligations of a captain. By this article, BLawyers Vietnam will provide you some important obligations and responsibility of the captain that the parties should pay attention to when determining liability for damage.

1. Obligations when handing over the ship

The act of handing over the ship must be performed directly between the delivering captain and the receiving captain.

When handing over, the delivering captain must take note of the ship’s general status. Also, he must check and list out the amount of fuel, fresh water, supplies, equipment, properties, all documents, and cash related.

The captains shall verify information about special structure, technical features, operational capacity, and the plan to continue. The delivering captain shall request the officers responsible for each department to submit a status report and a ship’s property inventory. The receiving captain and the crew will examine the actual status.

2. Obligations when putting a ship into operation or shutdown

Before each journey, the captain must take measures to ensure the safety and security of people, ship, and cargoes, including the ship’s technical supplies, fuel, fresh water, and food.

The captain will assign the chief officer and the chief engineer to prepare all aspects for departing on time. He also checks for preparation of nautical chart and other documents related to the entire voyage of ship.

In terms of overall safety, the captain must seize the weather situation and plan for the journey. He gives directions on the chart and calculates the effects of geographical, meteorological, hydrological, and other factors.

For cargoes, the captain must check the arrangement according to cargo diagram to ensure their quantity and quality. Dangerous goods and cargo in bulk must be paid attention when arranging and transporting. In principle, the captain must ensure the stability and safety of ship.

At least 02 hours before the ship leaves the port, the captain must know about the preparations, check the presence of crew and others on it.

In addition, the captain is responsible for regularly maintaining labor safety, maritime safety and security, fire prevention and environmental pollution prevention. He also is the person receiving and settling complaints of crew according to his competence.

3. Obligations when the ship during its journey

The captain makes sure that the number of crew and passengers is correct to declared list. And performance of journey plan shall be checked regularly. Importantly, no one except the captain has the right to change the course as plan.

In the event of bad situations, the captain should take appropriate actions to ensure the safety of people, cargoes, and the ship. Every day, he must check and certify the contents of the logs according to regulations. Furthermore, the labor safety, maritime safety and security, fire prevention and environmental pollution prevention needed to be checked and maintained regularly.

4. Obligations when occurring accidents or collisions

In the event of a collision with another ship, the captains of both ships shall exchange ships’ information and notify the ship owner, operator, and the nearest port authority. If his ship has the capabilities and conditions, he must direct it to rescue the ship in distress.

In case of a ship’s accident and forced to abandon it, the captain must take all measures to save lives. They should bring along marine logbook, machine log, radio information log, chart of the casualty area, money, and other necessary documents.

After an accident or collision, the captain must promptly make a written record of the occurrence of the incident. In which, clearly stating the damage of each party with the certification of the other captain and the interested parties. In addition, the captain shall make a full report on any maritime incidents occurring to his ship in accordance with regulations.

Should you have any questions about the above contents, please revert to BLawyers Vietnam at We are more than happy to hear from you!

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