On Sunday morning, December 2, Gerbang Samudra I — an Indonesian ro-ro passenger ferry carrying 148 passengers and crew members in total — was five hours into its journey from Surabaya (a large city in eastern Java) to Banjarmasin (a port in Kalimantan province) when it caught fire.
According to reports, a nearby ship, Kumala, immediately came to the assistance of Gerbang Samudra I, helping evacuate 145 passengers. Official firefighting and rescue efforts were not able to engage in a timely manner. Three passengers who were listed on the ferry manifest are still missing, and it is not yet clear how many passengers were injured during the fire (and subsequent evacuation).
Indonesia continues to struggle with enforcement of maritime safety regulations. As such, the passenger manifest may not necessarily be comprehensive — this has industry observers worried that the number of missing passengers could be higher than those indicated by initial reports.
Given the circumstances surrounding the accident, it’s likely that the injured (and the family members of those who died in the accident) have a claim for damages against the ferry operator.
Vessels Must Be Properly Maintained and Equipment/Procedures Available for Fire Suppression
In the present case, it is not yet clear what caused the fire aboard ro-ro passenger ferry Gerbang Samudra I: equipment failure, cigarette use, or something else entirely.
Ferry operators must properly inspect and maintain their ships on a regular basis. Failure to do so could lead to undiscovered defects that expose passengers to an excessive and patently unreasonable risk of injury. For example, an engine room valve defect — if undiscovered or uncorrected — could give rise to a fire that quickly spreads throughout the ship.
No matter what caused the fire, there should have been fire suppression equipment aboard to contain the fire and prevent it from engulfing the entire ship. Further, crew members should have been adequately trained in containing the fire.
Though a substantial portion of passengers and crew members were successfully evacuated thanks to the efforts of Kumala, the accident could have led to many more deaths and injuries had there not been a ship nearby to lend immediate assistance.
We Can Help
If you have been injured — or if you have lost a loved one — due to a fire-related incident aboard a ferry, then you may be entitled to damages as compensation for your losses. Ferry operators have a responsibility to properly maintain their vessels to ensure that they are reasonably safe for passengers. They can be exposed to significant civil liability for their failure to do so.
Here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A., our attorneys have over a century of combined experience handling a range of injury claims in maritime and admiralty law, including those that involve fire-related accidents. We have a long and consistent track record of success. Since our founding, we have secured over $200 million in damages for our clients through favorable verdicts and settlements.
In the present case, the ferry caught fire in Indonesian waters. Though the incident occurred off foreign shores, that is not necessarily a barrier to recovery. Here at Lipcon, we have extensively litigated international maritime injury claims in courtrooms worldwide.
Contact our firm today to speak to an experienced maritime lawyer about your claims.