Is the president or board chairman of a shipping company criminally liable for shipwreck or maritime accident involving the ship?
When a shipwreck or other maritime accident occurs, the criminal liability does not per se rest on the chairman of the directors or the president of the relevant company for issuing a departure notice or authorization for the ship. However, he or she will be held criminally liable for wrongfully precipitating or hastening the ship's departure which results in a shipwreck or maritime accident.
Article 40 of the Maritime Act states: "The captain is responsible for the ship's operation at sea." The captain is to subject him/herself to the employer company's instruction and surveillance, provided that they fall within his/her scope of duty. Accordingly, Article 28 of the Seamen Service Regulations provides: "Departure or movement of the ship is only permissible with a departure or movement authorization notice." This departure authorization notice authorizes the departure of the ship. Should the ship then be involved in a maritime accident or shipwreck, the chairman of the directors or the president is not to be held per se negligent under the Criminal Code for issuing the authorization notice. However, the foregoing does not apply to the situation where the accident occurred as a result of the chairman’s or the president's wrongful precipitating or hastening of the ship's departure. Translated by Wei-Feng Huang.