Maritime Lawyer Explains Japanese Ferry Collision

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Yesterday, Thursday, July 26 at 7:00AM JST, a large Japanese ro-ro ( roll on roll off ) ferry carrying 40 passengers — Ishitegawa — sustained significant structural damage in a collision accident with an aggregate carrier cargo ship.  The accident occurred in southern Japan, off the coast of Kure, in Hiroshima prefecture.  According to initial reports, the bow of the cargo ship — Daiei Maru No. 10 — directly struck Ishitegawa.  The impact forces of the collision were sizable, and caused a portion of the ferry structure (on the portside) to tear open, creating a massive, gaping hole.  Fortunately, this damage to the structure was located several feet above the waterline, so the ferry was not at-risk of sinking.  The cargo ship also suffered damaging deformations, though limited to its bow.

At present, reports are foggy as to the details of the incident.  Of the 40 passengers who were traveling aboard the ferry, “several” of the passengers and crew members are said to have suffered injuries due to the collision. The severity of those injuries has not been made clear as of yet.  It is also not clear whether (and how) emergency response teams successfully evacuated passengers from the ferry and provided them swift access to necessary medical services.

Marine police are currently investigating the incident and attempting to determine its various causes.  They are also investigating the possibility of oil spillage due to a hull breach.

We are pleased to hear that there are no reported fatalities, though we are concerned for the condition of the injured passengers and crew members who were aboard the ferry at the time of the collision.  Further investigation should reveal the timeline of events leading up to the accident and the factors that contributed to it. Those who suffered injuries will very likely have an actionable claim for damages against the responsible parties.

Vessels Must Be Careful When Navigating Heavily-Trafficked Waters

Generally speaking, when two (or more) ships collide — even in heavily-trafficked waters near a busy port — the accident is caused by the negligence or other wrongful act(s) of those operating the vessels at-issue.  Those responsible for navigating and piloting vessels must exercise reasonable care to ensure that timely identify collision hazards and avoid a collision. Failure to do so may expose the operator to significant liability.

Of course, there are other possible causes that do not necessarily implicate crew members.  In some cases, weather conditions may be poor, and port controllers may give incorrect instructions, thus precipitating a collision.  In the present case, however, weather conditions appeared to have been relatively normal.

Collisions are preventable with: 1) adequate training, and 2) proper maintenance.

If crew members are not adequately trained, they may fail to identify dangerous collision hazards in a timely manner.  Ferry and cruise ship operators must also ensure proper vessel maintenance.  Oftentimes, collisions occur due to mechanical failures aboard one (or both) of the ships.  For example, a sudden engine failure makes it much more difficult for a ferry to move out of the path of an oncoming ship.

We Can Help You Litigate Your Claims

If you have suffered an injury in a maritime collision accident with another vessel, then you may have the right to bring a civil action for damages against the operator of either of the two vessels (or both, depending on the circumstances).  Ship collisions are generally avoidable, so long as crew exercise reasonable care — such incidents are therefore likely to give rise to significant civil liability, as the collision itself may be indicative of negligence or wrongful conduct.

Here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkelman, P.A., our attorneys have over a century of combined experience representing the interests of those who have suffered injuries in maritime collision accidents, including those that involve passenger ferries, as in the present case.  Though we have a diverse legal practice, we focus primarily on maritime and admiralty claims, which gives us a competitive advantage — we understand the unique contours of such litigation, and how best to favorably resolve cases on behalf of our injured clients.

In the present case, the ferry collision occurred off the coast of Japan.  Oftentimes, those who injured in international waters are not fully aware of their rights.  It is important to note that you are entitled to compensation regardless of where you suffer your injuries.  Here at Lipcon — though our offices are located in the state of Florida — we have substantial experience litigating claims against vessel operators in courtrooms abroad.

Seeking further assistance?  We encourage you to contact an experienced maritime lawyer at our firm for an evaluation of your claims.