On Tuesday, November 6, 2018, two ships – Kollum (a bunker tanker) and Charlotte Maersk (a container ship) –, which were moored alongside each other at the Panama City docks, were involved in an overboard incident. Three containers fell from the Charlotte Maersk, two of which slammed onto the deck of the nearby bunker tanker, and one went into the water. Though the Kollum sustained structural damage, reports indicate that there were no injuries.
At present, the cause of the incident is unknown. However, it is likely that the containers fell from the Charlotte Maersk because of a failure in the manner the ship’s crew or the stevedores secured them to themselves and the vessel. Weather conditions at the time were fair, and as such, external factors most likely did not play a significant role in contributing to the accident.
Had any crew members or bystanders been harmed by the falling containers, they would almost certainly have an actionable claim against the operator of the Charlotte Maersk for damages.
Containers Must Be Properly Organized, Maintained, and Secured to Minimize the Risk of a Falling Accident
Vessel operators (and their crew members) must avoid exposing others to an unreasonable risk of harm – failure to do so could result in significant civil liability for the injuries caused. In the present case, the operator of the Charlotte Maersk might be liable for any injuries that were caused by the falling containers, if the injured person(s) could show that the containers fell due to some failure of the operator and/or crew members to properly secure them.
Containers fall due to a number of negligence-related factors. Overloaded containers that are improperly stowed (can lead to stowage collapse), containers that are continued in operation well after their “safe lifespan” (can lead to leaks and other structural issues relating to their ability to remain secure), inadequate lashing of the containers, and overloading or even unbalanced loading can all lead to containers falling.
We Can Help
Falling containers are a serious (and unfortunately common) hazard. In fact, maritime industry observers estimate that nearly 10,000 containers come loose and fall on an annual basis. If you suffered an injury due to a falling container, whether it is because of improper securing or negligent handling, you may be entitled to significant compensation – whether you are a seaman, a stevedores, or uninvolved bystander.
Here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A., our attorneys have extensive experience advocating on behalf of injured seamen, stevedores, passengers, and bystanders in disputes against vessel operators, including container ship operators who fail to secure their containers.
Over the decades, we have developed a keen understanding of maritime and admiralty law, and how to effectively navigate the unique and challenging “wrinkles” typical of such litigation. These insights have made us industry leaders in the field of maritime and admiralty law – since our founding, we have secured over $200 million in favorable verdicts and settlements for our clients.
Interested in learning more about your claims and what steps you can take to move forward with litigation? Contact Lipcon to request an appointment with one of our experienced maritime lawyers.