As maritime lawyers often see, maritime collisions are often traced to crew failures.  The National Transportation Safety Board has blamed the failures of the master for the collision of the carrier Orange Sun with the dredge New York in 2008.

On January 24th last year, the Liberia-registered Orange Sun struck the dredge New York in the Newark Bay in New Jersey.  The navigation watch on the Orange Sun included a master, docking pilot, helmsman and second officer. As the carrier neared the dredge, the pilot ordered for the course to be changed and for the speed to be slowed down. However, the helmsman found it hard to keep the vessel steady on course. The master and helmsman tried to correct the vessel’s course, including making decisions that the pilot had not ordered. The result was that the ship went directly toward the dredge, and struck it. Fortunately, there were no injuries in the accident. The dredge suffered approximately $6 million in damage, and there was some amount of oil spillage.

The National Transportation Safety Board report has found that the cause of the crash was the failure of the master to communicate properly with his bridge crew, and to inform them and the pilot about the vessel’s problems with occasionally veering off course. The NTSB also found that the second officer was at fault in his failure to monitor the helmsman properly.

If the crew members had been aware of the Orange Sun’s tendency to sometimes veer off, they would likely have been in a position to keep the vessel on course and prevent a collision. The master placed crewmembers on the vessel at great risk of injuries. It’s just another example of how competence of masters, pilots and crewmembers ensure the safety of all on board. Incompetence, errors or failures by one crewmember can mean a disaster at sea, placing the lives of all seamen on board in danger.

Incompetence of Crew Members and Captains can Lead to Claim of Unseaworthiness

Incompetence of a crewmember can be the basis for a claim of unseawortiness. These claims are filed against the owner of the vessel, unlike a Jones Act claim of negligence which is filed against the employer. However, in many cases, the owner and the vessel owner will be the same party.  Even in these situations, the two claims will be filed as separate claims, even if they are filed at the same time. Simply put, claims of unseaworthiness offer a Jones Act seaman one more option for recovery of compensation, in addition to his Jones Act claim of negligence.

The maritime lawyers at Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., Accident & Injury Lawyers represent injured freighter and tanker crews, cruise liner crews, tug boat and barge operators, offshore, semi submersible and  jack up  rig workers, commercial fishing vessel crews and other workers who meet the definition of  a Jones Act seaman.  For more information about your case, please email us at [email protected] or call (713) 364-0723.