Continuity Planning. What would you do if you were incapacitated?

Dealing with permanent incapacity and death

This topic is one that is close to my heart as over the years I’ve lost a number of friends and acquaintances then witnessed their businesses end up in turmoil and families not knowing what to do next.

Continuity Planning What would you do if you were incapacitated?

Unfortunately, this is not a subject that many people consider or even want to think about BUT: the reality is you should be considering what would happen to your business if you became permanently incapacitated or worse still died!

Business continuity planning is something that most business owners, yes if you own a commercial boat you’re a business owner, don’t take seriously or even consider.

What would happen if you were suddenly permanently incapacitated and unable to do the thing you used to do? If you only own a small business or one vessel you could sell it or get someone else to run it for you but what happens if you own a larger business or a number of vessels?

Owning a larger business means you have workers, most of whom have families to consider. If you own a number of vessels means you have crew to consider and possibly shore staff not to mention the work you would normally be doing.

You may be operating the business or one of the vessels yourself or maybe you do a lot of


Either way there is sudden hole in your operations which can drastically impact on your business operations and income of those who work for you not to mention your personal income.

Go one step further and consider what would happen if you were to suddenly die? Being incapacitated means that you may still be able to undertake some work depending on the nature of the situation but…

…when you’re dead you’re not going to be doing anything!

I know these are hard questions and ones that most don’t consider until it’s too late but over many years I been involved with several businesses where these incidents have occurred.

In almost every case there was no continuity plan in place which left the business in turmoil. The flow on effect is workers are without income not to mention the family of the owner are often left with a business they either knew little about or how to run it in many cases.

As I said earlier if it’s a small  business or a single vessel operation it may be as simple as selling the business or vessel which is OK if you’re incapacitated because you know what to do. What happens if you’re not around because of your hospitalisation or worse still death?

Do those remaining know what to do in selling the business or vessel or if keeping it is the option how to get the right workers and then manage the operation?

While most people know that I’m an advocate for safety management systems I’m equally and advocate for business strategies which include…

  1. Continuity planning:This is the process of creating systems of prevention and recovery to deal with potential threats to a company including permanent incapacity or death of the owner or owners;
  2. Succession planning:This is a process for identifying and developing internal and/or external people with the potential to fill key business leadership positions in the company;
  3. Exit strategy planning:This is the process of explicitly defining exit-related objectives for the owner(s) of a business, followed by the design of a comprehensive strategy and road map that take into account all personal, business, financial, legal, and taxation aspects of achieving those objectives.

While all this may sound like a lot it’s how you need to be focused if you’re a business owner. Failure to take these things into account may leave your family and workers in a dangerous position.

Things to consider

While this is a subject that most people simply don’t want to face the reality is you need to and…you need do it sooner rather than latter because all so often latter is simply too late!

Here are a few points to consider…

  • How big is your business
  • How many workers do you have
  • How many vessels to you own
  • Do you have vessels on charter
  • Are you operating chartered or leased vessels
  • Do you have shore based facilities
  • What is your level of debt
  • Do you have emergency funds in hand or available
  • Do you have a business continuity plan in place
  • If so does it take into account becoming permanently incapacitated and death
  • Do you have workers including crew and/or shore staff
  • Do you have sub-contractors
  • Do you have a will
  • Does someone have power of attorney for you
  • Does someone other than yourself have access to finances
  • Do you have immediate family

These are just a few things to take into account when putting together a business continuity plan.

Shorlink’s Recommendation

The very best recommendation we can give is that when developing your business continuity plan you need to take into account anything that can or may affect the ongoing operation of your business.

Not only incapacity or death but also things such as natural disasters, premises or vessel loss, financial situations, changes in government regulations and anything else that may cause major disruptions to your business operations.


If you don’t have a documented continuity plan in place my best tip is to get one underway now!

If you’re unsure about how to develop a business continuity plan don’t hesitate to contact me as I’ve been involved in the development of these for many years in not only in maritime but also in a range of other industries.