Captains Petty Cash May Not Be So Petty

Dockwalk Magazine. Written by Tom Andrews of AvMar Accounting Services

Petty Cash is an important function of any yachts program, it also has been the cause of termination for many a captain. I’ve met many captains who feel they have a great relationship with their yachts owner, after all they have worked with them closely in intimate quarters, gotten to know their family, spent holidays and vacations together. It is at this point captains sometimes get a false sense of job security. While most captains I have met are the most professional and competent of maritime professionals there is that other side of running the program that often trips them up and that is keeping track and properly reconciling their petty cash.

I’m not sure why it is called petty cash, for one thing many yachts carry thousands in cash almost all of which spent at the discretion of the Captain. From day laborers to that remote location where only cash is accepted petty cash is not a luxury it is a necessity. The problem is not that the Captain is misappropriating the cash, the problem is that the Captain gets so wrapped up in day to day operations of the yacht that he/she stops keeping track of the petty cash, shoves receipts aside and then when the owner asks for an accounting which in many cases they do the Captain is scrambling to reconcile a mess which in many cases they are unable to complete.

When it comes to petty cash I suggest that the Captain require the owners office or management company to have a written set of internal controls for the handling of cash and that the Captain follow these internal controls exactly. I also recommend that the Captain become familiar with an entry level accounting software such as Quickbooks or Quicken, these programs are very easy to learn and the basics can be picked up during a one or two day course. One of my favorite programs is the online version of Quickbooks, this is an online program that can be viewed by the yachts home office and from the yachts on board PC. This program costs $20 a month and can greatly ease the comfort level felt between the Captain and home office.

I know what many captains are thinking “I have a boat to run and I don’t need to be concerned about petty cash”. All I can say is that most disputes I’ve seen between owners and crew is over lack of control of petty cash and in the end the Captain usually loses that battle.

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