Important Points For Logbook Keeping On Ships – Part 1


 Narine in sight

Important Points For Logbook Keeping On Ships – Part 1


“If a person intentionally destroys or mutilates or renders illegible any entry in any statutory log book on ship, he will be liable for a fine or be arrested for destruction of official records”. How often have we come across such disclaimers onboard while maintaining the ships’ official records? Be it the Official Log Book, Oil Record Book or the Engine / Deck Log Books, all have to be maintained in manners that best represent the ship and the owners / managers.

Normally, record keeping is a separate topic discussed in the company’s SMS systems. Some require the vessel to maintain old official records for as long as up to 5 years. Yes, that creates a lot of clutter so to speak, but that’s that. However, since record keeping is of utmost significance and that each event occurring onboard has to be best recorded for all the official and legal intentions, we shall discuss what one has to bear in mind while jotting down the entries in a few important log books.


Here I would like to stress on some of the points that we sometimes miss out while filling up the official logs onboard. This is to bridge the gap for the knowledge we have from our competence / experience at sea and the guidelines provided with each of the log books according to the international regulations.

Official Log Book

The heads of their respective departments are fully and the only ones authorized to maintain this statutory log book and the Master has the overall responsibility to oversee its authenticity and appropriateness. The log book is considered to be a running log of all official events such as Arrival / Departure of the vessel to / from port, Draughts, Freeboards, Onboard Emergency Drills, Crew onboard, Fuel/Fresh Water ROB, Master’s Handing Over/Taking Over, etc. Although some flag states do provide a short guide for keeping the official log book and while some don’t, it is imperative that all entries must be made in a professional and legible manner. A few pointers while making such entries –

  • All entries should be made as soon as practicable after an event occurs, since all the logs are running records of the vessel it makes record keeping vulnerable if delayed in entirety.
  • Only authorised personnel should make such entries. Master may designate personnel to do so.
  • Entries to be signed where required by the person making such entry and by the person witnessing the event.
  • All entries must have a date and time recorded
  • It will be the Master’s responsibility to ensure the Official log book is accurately filled and signed.
  • Entries made in the log must not be amended or deleted under any circumstances unless the Master authorizes the cancellation. If it is to be done, it is a good practice to make sure the entry is stroked out with a single line and an initial put against the omitted entry.
  • If the entries cannot be contained within the log books’ pages due to their length, they must be entered separately in a separate document, endorsed and attached to the log book. A reference number may be given for easy record tracking.

Oil Record Book

MARPOL 73/78, Annex I states that each oil tanker of 150 GT and above and every ship of 400 GT and above shall be provided with an Oil Record Book Part I (Machinery Spaces) and each oil tanker of 150 GT and above to carry an Oil Record Book Part II (Oil Cargo Ops). This means the log is a mandatory record of everything related to oil and its handling onboard. This further means that the record will be compulsorily checked by all inspectors / auditors coming onboard for surveys. In fact the log is so closely scrutinised that even a slightest hint of overwriting can be ruinous. Therefore to avoid such mishaps happening, here are a few pointers.

  • Firstly, check whether the Oil record book supplied onboard is as per the Convention. Some publications not catering to the forms prescribed in MARPOL have been found onboard while inspection.
  • All filling and discharges of oil and oily mixtures to / from the ship’s tanks must be recorded in this log without delay and to the best knowledge known with exact figures and units.
  • Each entry of a completed person made must be signed by the officer in charge.
  • Without the Master’s signature on each completed page the log book would be considered incomplete and ineligible.
  • Make sure the ship’s particulates and oil tank details are correctly filled where required.
  • Sometimes, ships have been arrested on the bases of accidental discharges not been recorded appropriately. Even emergency discharges such as cargo jettisoning must be entered into the log book without delay as time permits.
  • It is also required to enter details regarding oily mixtures, tank washings, dirty ballast transferred to shore reception facilities along with the time and date of such operation. A certificate or a receipt so provided by the shore facility must be filed onboard and a copy of such receipt may be attached to the log book. This may help the ship ascertain that a legible transfer operation was carried out.
  • For operations conducted at sea (considering the MARPOL regulations) such as Crude Oil Washing, Ship-to-Ship Transfer and likewise, it is crucial that the vessel’s precise position is entered in the log book. This will avoid further inquiries should the inspectors suspect any foul play.

Garbage Record Book

Another hot favorite with the inspectors surveying the vessel! This log is to be accurately maintained onboard as per Regulation 10, Annex V of MARPOL 73/78 wherein all garbage disposals, discharges or even accidental losses are recorded. There have been cases where inspectors have been able to point out various ambiguities in the log keeping procedures. Hence, in order to steer clear of such doubts whatsoever the person in charge of the log keeping must ascertain the accuracy of the log is maintained throughout the log keeping periods.


Important Points For Logbook Keeping On Ships – Part 2


There are times when the paperwork seems endless and a condition of mental boredom and of being non-complacent props out of most of us. But the fact of the matter is that shipboard record keeping is here to stay. So in continuation to the previous list of logbooks that are required to be maintained legally and legibly onboard, let’s take a look at a few more logs that require the ship officer’s attention.

Medical log

This log goes unattended to at times. Non-complacency and avoidance are the two known major factors for the medical documentation not being up to date. It’s well understood that the ship’s officers are no more than passive first aid providers. This should be all the more a reason to understand medicine to an extent where proper aid could be given at the right time. This being obvious, the aid provided must be documented in the statutory log provided onboard. Being at sea makes the seafarers helpless. Hence it’s imperative that, atleast, the medical paperwork is updated with accurate or best known details of the following.

1. Entries should mention under what circumstances the medical aid was provided. The nature of the injury or illness, their treatments and progress (if any) must be mentioned to the best knowledge.

2. Recording even a simple dosage of a pain killer or even an anti-inflammatory drug is vital.

3. The medical log may have an inventory list of the drugs onboard attached to it for easier reference.

4. Master or an Officer designated for upkeep of the medicines is the only personnel onboard to oversee medical related issues onboard. Entries should be made without delay with signatures, both of the patient and of the medical provider. Master to endorse the same.

5. Apart from this being a legal obligation, recording of injuries and illnesses aid the owners and the P & I Clubs for settlement of further claims. This in turn enables the Master to defend himself and his owners against later claims and allegations made by the then injured/sick seafarer.

Bridge of Triple E

GMDSS Radio Log

A Radio log with adherence to the SOLAS Ch V and Merchant Shipping regulations is required to be maintained onboard most merchant ships / vessels. It should be retained onboard on the navigating bridge well-situated near the radio equipment. Again, it is liable for compulsory examination during surveys.

The person designated for the radio record keeping, generally the senior navigating officer or radio officer (if onboard) is sole responsible for its upkeep. Like all official logs, this one too comes with a leaflet of instructions on how to enter the details, but personally, I have seen people making ambiguous entries for even simple operations such as testing the radio equipment for example. Anyway, let’s try to clear the air for some:

–  As most logs, the ship’s particulars are entered as required. But one has to also update the details of the existing radio operators every time the officers change hands.

–  A synopsis of all interactions/communications related to Distress, Urgency or Safety must be entered clearly along with the ship’s position, date and times. All the follow-up communications, actions taken by the vessel, etc. must be recorded as evidence to the events that followed over radio. One must not forget recording the SSB / VHF radio frequencies over which the communications took place.

–  Breakdown or malfunctioning of the radio equipment, breakdown of communications with coastal or land earth stations must be logged down to ones best knowledge. This saves the day for any inquiries propping up on related issues.

– Where testing of the equipment is concerned, details must be provided to the ‘T’. This means, even if the receiving stations could not respond or acknowledge back an entry should be made along with the frequencies over which the radio equipment was tested and if calling out a coast or a land earth station, details of such station to be recorded. If the testing is carried out on batteries only (which normally should be the case) then such details must be logged.

–  Entries of the vessel arriving and departing port are also noted.

–  It is required by the flag to log and attach hard copies of Distress, Urgency, Navtex, EGC, NBDP, DSC, etc. convenient to the entry made in the book.

ship deck

Ship Security Log Book

Security of seafarers has been a hot topic lately. Considering all the security measures that are taken by the vessels as precautionary, record keeping has become all the more tedious. The ship security officer is the one responsible for the log books’ care and upkeep. SOLAS Ch XI-2 provides with all the fundamental obligations the vessel needs to follow on shipboard security. However, let’s take a quick look at the essentials of record keeping for security related matters onboard.

– Firstly one should ensure that an updated list of last 10 calls at port is attached with the log book.

– Other notable entries must include a record that the ship has a valid International Ship Security Certificate and its issuing authority. Having a record of the necessary documents handy enables a smooth inspection process if the vessel undergoes one.

– The current and past onboard ‘Security levels’ (read level nos. 1, 2 or 3 as per SOLAS/ISPS Code) must be recorded along with a brief statement recording the Security level change over position, whether while arriving or departing a port or at sea while transiting through waters infested with pirates that pose a security threat to the ship and her crew.

– All security measures including any additional especially the ship specific ones should be recorded considering that the ship and her crew are vulnerable to security breaches at any point while in port or at sea.

–  Drills, trainings conducted must be logged with a separate sheet containing the names and signatures of the crew participating and the briefing / debriefing details.

The logs stated above are just a few important ones in a sea of log keeping procedures followed onboard. Over the years, ISM has paved the way for better documentation. This has in fact resulted in streamlining record keeping as most of us seafarers are also experienced and competent in following the ISM procedures. Overall, the idea is to not only ‘full up’ the log book, but to ‘fill it up’ with your best known abilities while not straying away from the facts.