Ferry Accidents Reveal Potential Dangers
In cities, ports, and waterways across the world, ferries are commonly used to quickly transport passengers and cars. Their relatively slow speeds and mundane trips make them seem infallibly safe, but several incidents over the past decades have proven that negligence can lead to fatal disasters on ferries.
The most recent of these events took place in South Korea in April of 2014, when a ferry capsized, killing about 300 of its 462 passengers and crew. The reason for the sharp turn that caused the MV Sewol to capsize is still being debated, but signs point to an inexperienced third-mate steering the vessel recklessly. Among the many points of negligence surrounding the incident, passengers were ordered to remain in their cabins while most of the crew abandoned ship, including the Captain. The vessel had also been illegally modified to carry a heavy weight, and the ship was operating in spite of warnings regarding its seaworthiness.
Ferry Accidents In The U.S.
These types of tragic ferry accidents are not unheard of in America. Of the several fatal ferry accidents in the past few decades, one remains particularly memorable. On October 15, 2003, the ferry dubbed Andrew J. Barberi was transporting approximately 1,500 passengers to Staten Island when it crashed at full speed into a concrete pier. The captain had lost consciousness after taking 2 medications that caused drowsiness, and the ensuing incident cost 11 people their lives and injured 165 more. State regulations that required a second captain to be present during docking were neglected, contributing to the tragedy.
These incidents demonstrate that even the most seemingly routine maneuvers at sea can easily turn into fatal tragedies if due diligence is not observed. Taking operations for granted and ignoring safety procedures greatly increases the risk to both passengers and crew.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, about 106 million passengers were transported by ferry in 2007 through 485 active terminals. Private companies operate some boats, but state governments operate many. They can carry anywhere between dozens to thousands of passengers in a single trip, making them viable for crossing popular waterways, such as the Puget Sound, or out to islands near the coast.
With millions of passengers relying on ferries for safe transportation every year, it is imperative that companies, captains, and crewmembers remain diligent at all times to prevent tragedies. Steps such as training crewmembers on emergency procedures, providing adequate life jackets and lifeboats, and performing regular maintenance on vessels can help reduce the risk of traveling at sea.
If you have been injured as a passenger or employee on a ferry, you could be eligible for compensation under the Jones Act. The Jones Act is a federal statute that regulates maritime commerce and protects the rights of offshore workers and passengers. Contact our experienced Jones Act attorneys to learn about your rights.