On Wednesday afternoon, January 16, the general cargo ship Murueta — flagged under Panama, but owned and operated by Grupo Navesco, a Colombian maritime transport company — crashed into the pier at Sociedad Palermo, in Barranquilla, Colombia. As a result of the allision, the hull sustained damage and the portside anchor was displaced from the ship entirely. Murueta was attempting to berth at the time of the accident, having departed days earlier from Antilles.
It is not clear what may have caused the accident, and no crew or bystander injuries have been reported yet, though media coverage is limited. Based on video footage of the pier allision incident, it seems as though the weather conditions, which were fair at the time, were not a contributing factor. The possibility of negligence (i.e., operator negligence or mechanical defect) is strongly suspected. If any crew members or bystanders were injured, they might have a claim for damages.
A Pier Allision Accident May Imply Negligence
Given that the ship is the only moving object in a pier allision accident, there is a strong implication of negligenc. It’s worth noting that under general maritime law, vessel operators may be held liable for injuries caused by the negligence of their crews. So, for example, if you are injured in an accident that is caused by the negligence conduct of one of your colleagues, then you may have a right to sue your maritime employer for damages.
In the present case, Murueta was not beset by fierce weather conditions that might have made it impossible to perform a safe berthing exercise. Footage released of the accident reveals that the waters were remarkably still and that the overall weather conditions were fair. Given the lack of information, we can only speculate as to what might have caused the crash, but there are a number of possibilities:
- Simple negligence of a crew member (i.e., failure to properly steer the ship)
- Intoxication of a crew member
- Mechanical defect (i.e., breakdown of guidance system or steering system)
- Inadequate training
- Failure to establish a safe protocol for berthing the ship
- And more
The ship owner and/or operator will be liable for any of these acts of negligence. For example, suppose that the incident was caused by a mechanical defect that caused the captain’s inability to control the vessel during the docking procedure. Under such circumstances, the operator/owner could potentially be held liable for their negligence in failing to properly maintain the vessel in a seaworthy condition.
We Can Help
Cargo ship operators have a duty to provide its crewmembers with a seaworthy vessel which is fit for its intended purpose. This includes having properly trained and supervised crewmembers and properly inspected and maintained equipment. Crewmembers are also owed a duty of reasonable care under the circumstances and ship owners are required to shield their crew members from an unreasonable risk of harm. Failure to satisfy this duty could expose the operator to significant civil liability. If you have been injured in a cargo ship accident, whether the accident involves the ship crashing into a pier, or something else, then you may be entitled to bring a lawsuit against your employer for damages.
Here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A., our nationally-recognized attorneys have a century of combined experience representing injured crew members in a wide range of maritime disputes, including those that arise out of ship allision incidents such as the one in the present case. Over the years, we have developed a keen understanding of what it takes to successfully litigate a maritime injury dispute, and how best to secure favorable results for our clients.
Contact Lipcon today to setup an appointment with a seasoned maritime lawyer.