How Can I Avoid Overcrowding a Ferry Stairwell?

Last fall, in an attempt to reduce injuries associated with ferry accidents, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) began warning vessel operators that they needed to do more to keep passengers from packing into stairwells during safety maneuvers. Photo of ferry

The agency issued an alert following the January 2013 Seastreak Wall Street accident in New York. In the incident, 80 people were injured as they crammed into stairwells in a rush to get off the boat.

The NTSB alert urged operators to find ways to control access to stairwells during emergency procedures, according to Professional Mariner. The agency said that operators needed to develop safety management plans, including “strategies for keeping passengers from entering stairwells during docking and undocking.”

Some of the strategies could include announcements reminding people not to congregate in areas should a vessel come to an abrupt stop. Or, during docking not allowing passengers wait on the stairs to exit the vessel.  The safer practice is to keep the stairwell blocked off until after the ferry has docked. However, many ferries fail to keep the stairwell blocked off during docking as it slows down disembarking times.   Sadly, one of the passengers of the Seastreak Wall Street suffered a broken neck, brain hemorrhage, lung collapse and other catastrophic injuries after he fell down a stairwell when the vessel struck a pier.

During a trip,  “it’s up to the operators to remind passengers to be proactive to avoid having passengers congregate in an area where they could be hurt if the vessel comes to an abrupt stop,” Tracy Murrell, director of the NTSB’s Office of Marine Safety said, according to Professional Mariner.

Having a Ferry Accident Investigated

Remember, as a ferry passenger, your safety should be a priority. When an operator fails to warn you about how to properly respond in the event of an emergency, it could be held liable. Keep in mind, ferry accidents can occur due to human error and mechanical error along with  a number of other issues. If you have been injured in a ferry accident, it may be wise to speak to an experienced maritime attorney, as you could potentially seek damages.

It should be noted that our attorneys have handled ferry accident claims heavily along the New England Coast. Some of the operators we have litigated against include Woods Hole, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Steamship Authority, Boston Harbor Cruises, Hy Line Cruises and Maine State Ferries.

Latti & Anderson LLPNationwide Maritime Attorneys