Vessel operations and video records

With the excellent image quality and capabilities of the latest video cameras combined with their affordable price tags and new moron-proof transfer and editing programs, it’s a wonder that more things don’t find their way onto video. 

But for people involved in critical activities, like boat operators and crews, the skyrocketing growth in video is good and bad.

A video and audio record is powerful evidence in law and public opinion. In a maritime-related civil action, a video record of a loss could determine the outcome of a multimillion-dollar lawsuit.

Generally, to the chagrin of some law-enforcement officers, anyone has the right to video anything that happens in public. Many vessel operators now have video cameras permanently installed on their vessels. But these cameras normally feed to a screen in the wheelhouse for the operator’s use, with only a few fed to a mass storage device for video database purposes.

It is inevitable, however, that with the explosion in data-storage capacity, video records will become common. And in any litigation, a savvy attorney will certainly inquire about the existence of any video or audio record of the event. So vessel owners may well be fearful that something adverse could be recorded, but even opponents of routine video recording can’t argue that cockpit voice recorders have not increased airline safety. And, particularly in gangway and other slip-and-fall claims, a clear video recording can halt frivolous lawsuits in their tracks.

What does this mean to a vessel operator or crew? The answer is to get wired. Video record events on hard drives that don’t automatically erase and record, and record in high resolution in order to blow up images to provide as much detail as possible. Give the master a pocket videocam like a Flip to carry around. Make sure safety lectures, drills, briefings, and other shipboard activities the show proper vessel operation are part of the video record. Record any vessel repairs to show that they were properly completed. After an incident, be sure to make a video record of the items and locations involved. If possible, perform video interviews with those involved in the incident. A contemporaneous account could be invaluable.

Having our daily lives recorded may be a little unsettling, but as a judge infamously said once, “It’s inevitable, so we might as well enjoy it.”

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About the author

Capt. Max Hardberger

Max Hardberger is a maritime attorney, flight instructor, writer, and maritime repo man. He has been a correspondent for WorkBoat since 1995. His memoir, Seized: A Sea Captain’s Adventures Battling Scoundrels and Pirates While Recovering Stolen Ships in the World’s Most Troubled Waters, was published by Broadway Books in 2010. He’s appeared on FOX, The Learning Channel, National Public Radio and the BBC, and has been the subject of articles in Fairplay Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, Men’s Journal, Esquire (UK), and the London Sunday Guardian.

1 Comment

  1. Avatar
    Dale Dietrich on

    When will it ever stop ? I have been a Captain for 37 yrs and on boats all my life of 59 yrs..And everyday hate this Industry more..I have no problem with video camera pointing at forward of vessel..But to record me is different story..I hate my picture taken and will retire the day a video and audio is installed on my vessel

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