Does Weather Play a Part in Maritime Safety?

A tugboat captain whose barges collided with a cargo freighter in Texas said the larger vessel “increased its speed in foggy conditions,” making it impossible to avoid the crash. There were no injuries in the accident, but authorities thoroughly examined the evidence during a weeklong hearing, since nearly 170,000 gallons of oil spilled into the water. Associated Press reports that oil was found for at least 200 miles along the coastline.

As the larger boat’s speed kept growing, Capt. Kelli Hartman said all she could think was “Oh no, this ain’t looking good.” Hartman, with over thirty years of experience on the water, added: “I did everything I could to get out of his way.” The accident slowed traffic for five days along the Houston Ship Channel, which serves the nation’s largest petrochemical complex.

Both captains denied fault in the incident; the hearing was intended to determine exactly what transpired and make recommendations to keep it from occurring again. It is important to remember that maritime law diverges from standard legal procedures in many ways. Here is maritime attorney Carolyn Latti discussing a few of the differences:Luckily, no one was injured in this accident. Had they been, they would have been eligible, under the Jones Act to file a claim for seamen’s rights to compensation for injuries sustained on the job, along with a claim for unseaworthiness under general maritime law. For more information about how maritime law will affect your rights after a maritime accident, contact Latti & Anderson LLP for a consultation.

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