Freighter Collides With Multiple Vessels While Docking in France

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Just yesterday morning, on October 16, Maestro — a general cargo vessel flagged in Antigua and Barbados, but operating in Western Europe — was attempting to dock in the marina at St. Louis du Rhone, in France, when the ship failed to alter course and collided with several boats in the area, causing property damage and personal injuries.  Current estimates put the number of affected boats at seven and the number of injured persons at three in total.

According to reports, Maestro was maneuvering around the marina to get into docking position when it suddenly experienced a blackout.  Crew were unable to stall the vessel or alter their course significantly, thus leading to a multi-vessel collision.  The collision also caused the Maestro to sustain damage to its bow.  Local authorities deployed tugboats to help safely berth Maestro in the wake of the accident.

It is not clear whether the blackout was caused by an unexpected equipment failure, or whether the electrical equipment itself was poorly maintained (leading to the blackout at such an inopportune time).  Regardless, however, the crew should have been careful to navigate the waters so as to allow themselves the space necessary to make adjustments in the event of a blackout or other equipment failure.

Given the circumstances, it’s likely that the injured persons (and those whose property was damaged by the collision) have actionable claims against the operator of Maestro for damages.

Operators Must Account for Possibility of Equipment Failure While Navigating Trafficked Waters

In the present case, there were a number of issues that point to the negligence of the vessel operator and crew aboard Maestro, and consequently, could give the injured a legitimate right of action.

  • the blackout may have been caused by inadequate maintenance and/or periodic inspection of the electrical equipment aboard the freighter;
  • when the blackout occurred, the freighter did not engage backup systems; and
  • the freighter may not have navigated the marina waters with sufficient care to allow for the space necessary to alter course in the event of a loss of power.

It’s important to understand that all vessels must be maintained in a reasonably safe condition so as to avoid exposing both crew members and others to a heightened risk of injury.  The blackout in the present case — if due to a preventable defect — should not have occurred with proper maintenance.

Equipment failure is possible, of course, and crews must be trained and given the tool necessary to respond.  When power was lost aboard Maestro, the crew did not engage any backup power systems — either none were available (or were also not working), or crew may not have been properly trained to respond to the emergency scenario.  In conjunction with the lack of “buffer” room between Maestro and other vessels in the area, this issue produced a multi-vessel collision which results in harm to innocent persons.

We Can Assist You

If you or a loved one has sustained injuries (serious or fatal) in an accident involving a dockside maritime collision, then you may be entitled to significant damages as compensation for your various losses.  Bringing a lawsuit against the operator of the vessel that caused the collision can be a challenge, however, as it is not always a simple matter to prove that the defendant is liable.  In many cases, there may be intervening factors — such as the blackout in the present case — that complicate litigation.

Here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A., our attorneys have extensive experience representing the interests of those who have been injured — both at-sea and shoreside — in a maritime incident involving the negligence of a vessel operator (and its crew).  We understand the unique difficulties associated with maritime litigation and how to approach the dispute so as to secure maximum compensation (through negotiation and, if that fails, trial litigation) for our clients.

In the present case, the accident at-issue took place in France.  Injured persons may feel rather confused as to how this affects their claims.  We can help you understand how the venue will be selected and the applicable rights and obligations for your case.  Though we are located in Florida, our attorneys have litigated claims in courts throughout the United States and worldwide.

Ready to learn more?  Contact an experienced maritime lawyer at Lipcon for assistance.