Maritime Casualties Must Be Reported

Widespread Underreporting of Maritime Accidents

In a 2011 study published in Accident Analysis & Prevention, researchers concluded that 50% of accidents that occur at sea are never reported. For every accident that is reported, another occurs that we never hear about. Conducted for risk prevention management, the study recommended that risk analysis consultants plan for a large margin of underreporting when analyzing maritime vessels.

Under rule 46 CFR § 4.03 1, if the owner, agent, master or person in charge of the vessel on which the incident occurs does not report an accident, he or she can be levied with a fine of up to $100,000 and be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.

Reporting Hazardous Conditions

Another stipulation of maritime law is that ship operators must report any "hazardous condition" on board their vessels, including but not limited to loss of power, steering, or propulsion. Failure to do so can result in the same penalties as those incurred for not reporting an injury or death.

Poor understanding of a ship’s hazards can lead to heinous acts of negligence. For example, in October 2015, the El Faro traveled through Hurricane Joaquin despite being scheduled for massive repairs. The ship had a history that included over 20 instances of engine failure and other issues. Its route through Joaquin caused the tragic loss of the ship's 33 crew members.

TOTE Maritime, who owned the El Faro, experienced the second incident of total engine failure on another of its ships only weeks after the El Faro went missing. Thankfully, the second incident took place in calm seas and help was eventually provided. Regardless, a history of engine failure is something employers are legally obligated to address for your safety.

The Role of Accountability

Ultimately, the idea behind obligating employers to report equipment failures and injuries is accountability. Employers should keep their crew members safe through proper training, well-maintained equipment, and safe work environments. Their failures deserve to be public knowledge for the sake of their current and prospective employees.

More importantly, having a record forces employers to address their own safety issues openly and honestly. Cutting corners becomes more difficult (and perhaps incriminating) when an employer has a record for valuing profits over the lives of its crew.

Arnold & Itkin has helped our clients win billions of dollars to rebuild their lives, keep their homes, and pay for their medical care. If you were injured while working offshore, call us—we'll review your options together in a free consultation.

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