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OCIMF lambasted by High Court for unlawfully stripping surveyor of accreditation

Captain Arshad Rashid
Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF) has been ordered by the High Court in London to reinstate the accreditation of one of its senior surveyors, and pay damages amounting to GBP126,841 ($153,985).

OCIMF, regarded as the voice of safety in the oil sector, has been lambasted by the High Court for unlawfully removing the professional accreditation of Captain Arshad Rashid, considered to be one of its most experienced ship inspectors.

In an unprecedented case for the oil and marine industry, Rashid challenged the accreditation body after OCIMF removed his accreditation of 12 years in October 2017.

In July 2017, OCIMF commenced an internal investigation into the conduct of Rashid. The investigation was pursued by OCIMF’s compliance manager Captain Patrick McGroggan, in what appeared to Rashid to be a personal vendetta.

Initially McGroggan levelled a number of highly damaging allegations that were entirely unfounded, including that Rashid had coerced vessel crew to falsify log entries, and that he provided instructions on how to submit falsified reports. All these allegations were quickly dropped by OCIMF leaving only one allegation that in four inspections, Rashid misrepresented the time he had spent onboard the vessel and that the time actually spent was not sufficient to conduct a proper inspection.

Following the original disciplinary hearing, which was supposed to consider the one existing allegation, OCIMF decided that Rashid had committed serious misconduct in other respects and removed his accreditation.

Left with no avenue when his appeal was refused, Rashid was forced to take on the substantial resources of OCIMF in court, in order to regain his livelihood.

After a two-year legal battle and a five-day trial in the High Court, led by partner Josh Wong of specialist commercial litigation firm, Signature Litigation, Rashid was vindicated by the High Court.

Justice Martin Spencer of the Royal Courts of Justice said in his judgment: “I have reached the firm conclusion that the process which led to the removal of Captain Rashid’s accreditation was deeply flawed, wholly unfair on him and a serious breach of the principles of fairness and natural justice… I have no hesitation in declaring that the Defendant acted unlawfully and in breach of contract…”

The Judge found that each of the six new allegations relied on by OCIMF were only minor errors, at the most, and could never amount to misconduct. He said “no reasonable committee could possibly make a finding of misconduct based upon a simple error of this kind”.

Commenting on the ruling, Rashid said: “OCIMF has treated me in the most appalling way, and I hope that this judgment will cause them to reassess their plainly deficient disciplinary procedure and begin treating its inspectors with respect. I look forward to putting this episode behind me and working constructively with OCIMF.

“I had no choice but to challenge OCIMF because nothing is more important than the self-respect, dignity and integrity of an individual,” he added.

Wong of Signature Litigation commented: “The judgment needs to be considered carefully by OCIMF and I hope it quickly changes the way it conducts its investigations and disciplinary processes against its hardworking and professional inspectors. If it does not, there are likely to be more inspectors who will challenge OCIMF's decisions.

“The case will also have significance in respect to how other accreditation bodies manage their relationships with their accredited professionals and I am sure they will be looking at the ruling with interest,” Wong said.

Meanwhile OCIMF is considering whether to lodge an appeal.

In a statement OCIMF said: “Naturally OCIMF is disappointed with the outcome of the Judgement. The Judgement criticised how the OCIMF Tribunal reached its decision but did not re-try the issues which led to the Tribunal’s decision to remove the SIRE accreditation from one of its inspectors.

"OCIMF fully supports the individuals who ensure that accredited inspectors continue to operate to the highest professional standards. OCIMF is reviewing the Judgement with a view to lodging an appeal."

OCIMF operates the Ship Inspection Report (SIRE) program which was established in 1993 to address concerns about sub-standard tanker quality and ship safety standards, and is responsible for the accreditation and training of its SIRE inspectors.