Types of Maritime Collisions & How They Happen

While there are many different causes of offshore accidents, none are quite as catastrophic as an actual collision at sea. Below, we explain some of the most common types of maritime collisions.

  • Bow-On Collision: This occurs when two vessels hit one other head-on, from their front ends. This can be attributed to the forward propulsion of the vessels without the ability to brake and can be often linked to human error, equipment failure, or adverse weather conditions. For example, the "rules of the road at sea" defined by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) state that when approaching head-on, a vessel must alter its course to the starboard (right side) so that it can successfully pass on the port (left). If the ship(s) do not alter their course to avoid one another, it could lead to a bow-on collision.

  • Side Collision: There are several situations where collisions can occur when a vessel is struck on its side. For instance, two vessels could approach one another in a "T" pattern. Collision rules defined by the IMO state the vessel that has the other on its starboard side must give way to avoid crossing. This rule, however, is not always followed—leading to "T-bone" type accidents. In other cases, there could be a mooring failure that causes a vessel to be blown by wind and waves into an obstruction.

  • Stern Collisions: Collisions where a vessel is hit near the stern (rear) can cause severe damage. This rear-end maritime collision can occur when one vessel is overtaking another. Per collision rules, overtaking occurs when a vessel is approaching another at more than 22.5 degrees above the beam. When this occurs, the rules state that the overtaking vessel needs to stay out of the way of the vessel being overtaken. This, however, does not always occur. If crew members are not paying attention, the overtaking vessel could simply run straight into the vessel being overtaken. Another incident where a collision involving the stern can occur is when a vessel (such as a freighter) is backing down a river or canal. While this is less common, it can still occur when reckless pilots or strong currents are involved.

  • AllisionAccidents classified as an allision occur when a moving object runs into a stationary object; for example, an accident where a vessel runs into a bridge abutment, fender, or even a seawall. Per the Oregon Rule, in cases of allisions, the moving object is presumed at fault and has the burden of proving an alternate theory where the stationary object was at fault for the accident.

At Arnold & Itkin, we have seen firsthand how these nautical accidents can cause severe damage to the lives of the injured. If you have been involved in a maritime collision—regardless of the type—it is important that you seek qualified legal assistance as soon as possible. Call our offshore injury firm today to learn more!

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