Passenger Ferry Collides With Pier in Estonia

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Late last week, on Friday, June 15 at 3:00PM EEST, an Estonian ferry with the capacity for 400 passengers and 100 passenger cars — Regula, operated by TS Laevad — was involved in a allision accident when it struck the pier, a fixed object. According to reports, the vessel was traveling the route between two busy Estonian ports, Virtsu (on the mainland) and Kuivastu (on Muhu Island), when it struck the Kuivastu pier and the bow stern — at the front of the vessel — sustained serious structural damage. Rescue boats were not deployed as they were unnecessary for unloading the passengers, given the circumstances.

We are encouraged to hear that, despite the danger presented by the collision accident in the present case, there were no reported injuries. Pier accidents involving ship contact with the pier structure (whether in the form of a direct collision or a grazing incident) are common, accounting for roughly 10 percent of total accidents. They can also be particularly dangerous, and in some cases, may lead to passenger injury or death as was seen in 2003 when the Staten Island Ferry crashed into a concrete pier. 11 deaths were killed and 165 others suffered non-fatal injuries.

At this time, there are no additional details regarding the condition of passengers aboard the ferry, or the ship itself, though the operator of Regula has suspended trips until a further inquiry as to the cause of the incident has been conducted. If a passenger was injured in the pier collision accident they would have a claim for personal injuries claim against the ferry operator for damages. Property damage claims can also be brought by the port.

Vessel Operators and Shore Personnel Must Exercise Reasonable Care

TS Laevad — owner and operator of Regula — is currently investigating the cause of the accident in the present case. Pier contact accidents are often caused by the negligence of crew on-board the vessel, and in some cases, responsibility may also fall on shore personnel, such as vessel traffic controllers. If crew fail to exercise reasonable care when piloting the ferry around land hazards (or if shoreside traffic controllers fail to alert crew to such hazards), then a collision accident is likely to occur.

Most such accidents can be avoided so long as the crew carefully adhere to the processes and standards imposed on them by their training. In the present case, there was no indication that weather conditions were poor or that visibility was an issue — as such, it appears that the accident was not justified by the circumstances.

Of course, some collisions may be caused by mechanical issues. Regula was built over 47 years ago, in 1971, and has been in continuous operation since that time. As such, there is a chance that the age of the vessel contributed to the accident at-issue. When operating old