Are Ferry Boats Safe?

Ferry AccidentIn 2003, a 310-foot ferry boat was reaching the end of the 5-mile trip between Manhattan to Staten Island in New York with more than 1,500 passengers on board when it crashed full-speed into a maintenance pier. The concrete platform smashed into the starboard side of the ferry and ripped into the main deck, where most of the passengers had already gathered in preparation to disembark from the boat. The crash was so violent, some passengers leapt into the water and many became trapped beneath debris. The ferry accident killed 11 passengers and injured 165 more. Many of these injuries were critical.

It was later discovered the ferry boat pilot had taken medication that made him drowsy and he fell asleep at the controls. He was later convicted of manslaughter. Additionally, it was revealed there was supposed to be two other pilots in the control room while the boat was docking. However, the city ferry director failed to enforce this safety regulation and was also convicted of manslaughter.

This was the worst ferry accident in the ferry service’s 98 years of operation. More than a decade later, ferry boat pilots have come forward with information that shows the Staten Island Ferry boats may not be safe.

Are Staten Island Ferry Boats Putting Passengers at Risk?

The Staten Island Ferry boats carry approximately 60 million people back and forth each year. However, in 2009, a ferry sailed into a pier at full-speed and injured 15 passengers. An investigation showed the ferry experienced electrical problems. The following year, a ferry boat crashed into a terminal and injured 50 passengers, three of which were serious injuries. The investigation that followed the 2010 incident showed the propellers failed, also due to an electrical malfunction.

One pilot told the New York Post that most of the ferry boats are poorly designed, poorly maintained and are generally safety hazards to the passengers. According to the pilot, the ferries have batteries that are prone to failure, which results in one or more propellers shutting down. There have been eight incidents over the course of 11 years of ferry operation. He went on to say it’s a wonder the Coast Guard allows these boats to operate, as many are “barely seaworthy.”

Safety Standards Must Be Better Enforced for Ferry Boats

Regardless of whether incidents have occurred due to operator error, poor design, poor maintenance or electrical malfunction, it seems the Department of Transportation and the Coast Guard need to tighten ferry boat safety standards and better enforce them. These ferry boats may not be seaworthy, and they have unnecessarily put passengers at risk.

Latti & Anderson LLP is a maritime injury law firm that helps victims who have sustained injuries in a ferry accident.