Installation error sees ship manager pick up communications bill


A ship manager has been asked to pay $436,000 in communication costs following an error in which a crew were unintentionally granted unrestricted internet access for a three month period, leading to hefty airtime charges.

Reporting the incident in its Claims Review, mutual insurance company the International Transport Intermediaries Club (ITIC) stated that the shipping company had a policy of upgrading communications packages on all its time-chartered and owned vessels, from satellite communications and email systems only, to those which also featured onboard internet access at fixed monthly rate payments.

The new systems were gradually being fitted across the fleet but when the current communications onboard one ship (not including internet access) failed in early 2009, this was mistakenly replaced with a broadband unit capable of internet access via satellite link. The superintendent (under the ship manager’s employment) failed to exclude internet access when he completed the activation form. In addition, he also failed to notify the crew of the tariff rates and intended use of the broadband unit, despite being aware of this information himself.

Presuming it had been provided for their unlimited internet access, the crew used the unit to download at will over a three month period. The cost of communications under the vessel’s old system did not exceed $1,800 per month but with internet access, an upgraded system would cost $3,800 per month.

Owing to the extent to which the crew made downloads, a significant airtime charge of $436,000 was incurred. The shipping company successfully claimed the difference between the amount the vessel would usually have paid for communications ($5,400) and the actual amount charged.