I am considering putting a boat out for charter and this may require employing a master to run the boat. Typically a ship master will enter their days underway in a nautical log. These logs are important because they are required for certifications. The higher the certification, the more days required. For a hired master, the log must be signed by the owner of the vessel (me), vouching that the master did operate the vessel on the days in question.

One concern I have is that a master might forge my name in the log. They would do this for various reasons. I might not be around when they are filling out their log. They don't want to go to the hassle of bringing their log to me. They might want to exaggerate their days to qualify for certification faster. They might not want me to see the log for some reason. So, there are whole host of reasons why a master might be tempted to forge my name in his log.

In a situation like this, what are my legal remedies in case a master I hire forges my name?


4 Answers 4


A legal remedy is for some injury done to you. Any possible forgery could only damage you if your good name was injured, perhaps by a master claiming that you had approved his seamanship and then putting his next command ashore. Whether or not you could then sue him (it would be fact-dependent, though I think it unlikely), you have no remedy for damage that has not in fact occurred.

If you have actual reason to believe that a master has forged your signature, you should report your concerns to the official body that would be affected (presumably the Coast Guard), just as you should report suspicion of crime ashore to the police. But in precisely the same way, you should report only what you know; if your complaint is simply that somebody had the opportunity, and a possible motive, to forge your signature you will only damage your own credibility and possibly lay yourself open to being sued for defamation.


One "remedy" is to report the forgery to competent authorities, since forgery is a crime. Applying Washington state law, but this requires an intent to injure or defraud (thus "having himself a hassle" does not constitute requisite intent for the crime of forgery). A criminal prosecution is at the discretion of the prosecution. A personal remedy would be to sue for damages (which presupposes that you actually suffered damages). But this is subsumed under fraud. So the reason for the forgery does matter.


Why would you allow this to happen? The master is your employee and you would require her to bring the log to you when and where you direct. You should be doing this regularly enough that the would be no chance of forgery because you would know almost immediately.

  • My concern is that the master would leave my employment and then fill out his log. The log is only submitted to the coast guard every once in a while, so this could easily happen. (BTW ship captains are nearly all men, so it be highly unlikely that the master would be a "her".)
    – Cicero
    Apr 22, 2017 at 7:43
  • Surely you would make your signing the final log entry a pre-condition of their termination pay?
    – Dale M
    Apr 22, 2017 at 9:28
  • @DaleM: That might not be legal. In some jurisdictions, labor law requires employees to be paid promptly and in full for hours they worked. This is the case in most (all?) US states for example. An employer may not withhold pay from an employee on account of work not completed, poor quality of work, property damage, or even suspected theft. So you can't make the paycheck conditional on delivering the log or on anything else. Jun 22, 2017 at 3:02

It sounds like this is happening in the context of a professional regulatory regime and that the main import of a forgery would be its impact on your certifications.

So, the logical course would be to look for ways to disclose the forgeries so that you do not ratify them and to amend the nautical log according to the prescribed procedure for doing so. This would mitigate the harm, more or less entirely, and you could not receive any tort award for damages for an unmitigated harm.

Your main legal remedy would be to fire the employee who is forging your signature and to contest any claim that the employee makes for unemployment benefits on the grounds that he was fired for good cause. Any recoverable out of pocket harm to you if you took reasonable efforts to mitigate your damages would be so nominal that they would not justify a lawsuit.

Also, given that pretty much all of the harm can be fully mitigated, pursuing a criminal complaint is probably not the best course of action. It would be more prudent to focus the retaliatory legal action on the only area where it is pertinent by making a misconduct complaint to the regulatory body that provides the master with the certification that he or she needs to carry on that profession.

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