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April 1st, 2010

Tugboat in Staten Island Ferry Accident Rescue Seeking Compensation

UPDATE: Same Staten Island Ferry Boat Crashes Again, Staten Island Ferry Crash Lawyers Blog about the most recent ferry accident.

As maritime attorneys, we frequently come across interesting questions of maritime law.  One such issue is being played out in a New York courtroom right now. A tugboat company whose vessel was involved in the rescue of a Staten Island ferry after a 2003 accident, is seeking compensation for its efforts.

Eleven people died in the maritime accident when the Staten Island ferry crashed into a concrete pier in St. George. At the moment the ferry was barreling toward the pier, tugboat mate Robert Seckers was waiting to move an oil barge. Seckers saw the ferry, and tried to make radio contact with it.  His tug, Dorothy J was the first boat to reach the scene after the ferry struck the pier. After the accident, the tugboat towed the ferry to the port.

The owner of the tug Henry Marine Services, and the crew members of the Dorothy J. filed a claim for $6 million under ancient admiralty law, claiming compensation for their efforts. Under admiralty marine salvage laws, a vessel that comes to the aid of another vessel in distress, is entitled to compensation.  Besides, Seckers has a separate lawsuit against the city. He’s claiming compensation for the trauma he underwent during the rescue.

 New York City lawyers insist that the tugboat crews might have been helpful, but they saved nothing, and are therefore not eligible for a claim.

Not every vessel that comes to the aid of another vessel may be entitled to salvage compensation. Typically, the vessel that’s making the claim needs to show that the stricken vessel was in danger of sinking after the maritime accident. Whether the Dorothy J. provided such assistance to the ferry is what is at question here.

Maritime laws can be rich and complex, and many of these, like marine salvage laws, were not devised by 21st century men and women, but were unwritten laws passed down through generations of mariners. That’s why you need a maritime lawyer to interpret these.

The maritime attorneys at Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., Accident & Injury Lawyers represent injured victims of maritime accidents, including barge and tugboat workers, cruise ship crews, offshore and oil rig workers, fishing vessel crews and other maritime workers in the state of Texas, and across the country.

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