Spirit of Baltimore Captain Fell Asleep On Duty, Fatigue Was To Blame

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Baltimore downtown and docked ships at the Inner Harbor pierThese days, cruises are considered appropriate vessels for both long and short voyages. Whether you’re sailing to the Caribbean or just around your local harbor, the experience is made all the better when you’re aboard a cruise ship. After all, what could be more luxurious and exciting than cruise travel?

Especially for the shorter, local voyages, stepping aboard a cruise can take you out of your natural environment and transport you to a world that feels farther away from reality than it really is. Typically, harbor cruises involve music, dancing and drinks to give passengers the chance to let go and just enjoy themselves.

However, just because it feels like a full-blown vacation does not mean that safety concerns do not exist. Regardless of the length of the trip, there are always certain measures that must be taken to ensure that everyone has a safe and enjoyable time.

While you may initially think that the passengers are the most prone to dangerous behavior, a recent story out of Baltimore, Maryland reminds us that that is not always the case.

In late August, the captain of the Spirit of Baltimore cruise fell asleep while navigating the ship. Unattended, the boat veered off course and crashed into floating pier at Henderson’s Wharf Marina in Fells Point. Investigators began probing into the accident. Their findings were revealed this week.

According to reports, the captain, who was unnamed, was tired on the night of the crash due to the fact that he had been, “working long hours on his own recreational vessel the previous three days.”

Two passengers were hospitalized with chest and back pain. There were no other injuries to report. The ship sustained a gash in its side. However, it hit two moored recreational boats and caused significant damage to the wharf, with damages estimated at around $100,000.

Fatigue-Induced Crashes Can Be Prevented

In the wake of the incident, the captain was suspended and then fired within 24 hours. The company explained, “This type of crew conduct has never occurred in the history of our company and we will continue working closely with the United States Coast Guard to ensure it never happens again.”

While we are glad that there were no life-threatening injuries, this is not the first time that seafarer fatigue has played a role in significant safety concerns.  Seafarer fatigue is well known in the shipping industry and that is why there are international regulations in place that are designed to limit the number of hours that seafarers work in a given day or a given week.  Unfortunately, these limits are routinely disregarded by shipping companies and cruise lines, and thus the public is at risk.

Since the accident occurred, the cruise company has also spoken with its crews regarding fatigue, so that similar incidents can be avoided in the future.

We are glad that the company has chosen to take the incident seriously and is actively working to protect passengers on future voyages. Often, we encounter cases of cruise line negligence that place both passengers and crewmembers at risk.

That said, we know that a happy ending is not always the case. Our firm has experience with a wide range of maritime legal issues and is ready to represent you. So, if you feel that you have a case against a cruise line, or if you were injured in some way aboard your cruise, a maritime attorney is here to help.

When you contact us, we’ll schedule an initial consultation, listen to your story, and help you move forward in the way that’s best for you.