This past Saturday, on October 6, 2018 at 11:15PM, passengers aboard a docked ferry in Belfast Harbor were evacuated to shore after the Northern Ireland Police Service (PSNI) received a tip regarding the presence of an explosive device.
According to reports, the ferry vessel in question was preparing to depart for Liverpool when authorities — Belfast Harbor Police and PSNI — notified crew as to the threat at-issue, thus ensuring a prompt evacuation. Law enforcement authorities boarded the vessel and conducted an extensive search, but ultimately, no device was found. After concluding that there was no real threat, police allowed passengers to board again, and the ferry departed for Liverpool without further delay.
No injuries were reported. Crew members conducted the evacuation and re-boarding procedure without incident.
We are encouraged by the response by both crew members and law enforcement authorities in the present case. As soon as police were tipped as to the possibility of an explosive device aboard the ferry in question, crew members were notified and a swift evacuation of passengers performed with no incidents or injuries. Had the crew members failed to evacuate passengers promptly — and an explosive device had been on-board the ferry — then it’s possible many would have been seriously injured or died in the resulting explosion, giving the injured and their family members an actionable claim for damages against the ferry operator for negligence security.
Ship Operators Must Respond Appropriately to Bomb Threats and Other Intimations of Violence
The threat of terrorist attacks against cruise ships and other commercial vessels is a very real concern in this day and age. Ferry operators — like cruise ship operators — must take proactive steps to ensure passenger safety and prevent third-party criminal threats of violence. There are numerous international regulations which shipowners must comply with including the regulations from the International Maritime Organization (IMO), International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS), and the Maritime Security Act. Failure to comply with these regulations and ensure crewmembers are properly trained could lead to serious injuries or even loss of life, thus exposing a ship owner and operator to significant damages.
All credible threats and/or intimations of violence must be taken seriously. It is generally bad policy for crew members to spend too long (without adequate, specialized training) investigating and evaluating a threat on their own. The most appropriate response in most situations involving dangerous criminal threats is to contact relevant law enforcement authorities, whether harbor police or Coast Guard, or others in the area.
When crew members attempt to control threats on their own, they may expose passengers to a serious risk of injury that could have been prevented had relevant authorities been contacted in a timely manner.
We Can Help
Here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A., our team of attorneys has over a century of combined experience representing the interests of those who have sustained injuries in ferry and cruise ship accidents, including those that involve criminal violence (or the threat of criminal violence). We understand that those who have been injured may be feeling particularly vulnerable in the wake of an accident, and as such, we work closely with clients throughout litigation to keep them fully apprised of relevant case developments and engaged in the overall process. It is always our goal to craft a personalized case strategy for our clients.
In the present case, the ferry in question was located in Belfast Harbor at the time of the incident. Had any injuries been sustained, the passengers would likely have a claim against the ferry operator for damages, even though the incident took place outside of the United States. Here at Lipcon, though our office is located in Florida, our attorneys have extensive experience litigating claims in courtrooms worldwide.
If you’ve been injured in a ferry or cruise ship accident involving a third-party criminal act, it’s important that you get in touch with a qualified attorney for guidance on how to proceed with your claims. Contact an experienced maritime lawyer at Lipcon to request an appointment today.