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Humans are, after all, only human, and therefore prone to making errors and bad choices. Unfortunately, when you’re sailing in oftentimes dangerous conditions, a simple error can prove fatal. Most maritime accidents are the result of human error of one kind or another, which makes them largely preventable, but also hard to avoid as long as humans are required to load, move, and navigate vessels.
Improper Maintenance, Inadequate Training, and Negligence
Sometimes the owners of cargo vessels, freighters, or fishing vessels will let maintenance fall by the wayside in their quest to keep their ships on time and turning profits. When the vessel keeping you safe and alive is floating over hundreds or thousands of feet of water in the middle of a vast ocean, this is a very dangerous game to play. Something as simple as a door or hatch that doesn’t latch properly can lead to the loss of a ship and her entire crew.
The structural integrity of a ship is of paramount importance when billions of gallons of water are ready to come rushing in the nanosecond a breach is made. Improper maintenance may result in a vessel being sent out on a voyage in unseaworthy condition, whether knowingly or unknowingly.
Inadequate training may also result in injury or death to a crew member. Working with heavy machinery will always be dangerous in itself, and companies which neglect worker training and safety regulations make these activities even more fraught with danger. Cranes and winches can malfunction, operators can make dangerous and life-threatening errors, and any manner of accident can occur, including slips and falls, blunt trauma injuries, fires and explosions, or electrocutions.
Ships often haul dangerous cargo, and negligence and improper training may lead to dangerous situations when the cargo is not properly secured. Fires, explosions, falls, and toxic chemical exposure threaten ship workers and crew.
Even a state-of-the-art navigational system isn’t a foolproof guarantee against navigational or steering errors. The humans operating the system are vulnerable to making mistakes and stupid choices, and errors can cause groundings, capsizings, or sinkings.
The Costa Concordia cruise ship was run aground as the result of a navigational error by the captain, who ordered the ship to sail too close to shore in order to show off to the locals. This resulted in rocks shredding through the hull, the ship taking on water and listing, and 32 deaths.
Failure to Heed Warnings
Ship captains and navigators are responsible for safely guiding a vessel through the hazards of the sea, including reefs, rocks, and other dangers. Another prominent threat in many parts of the world is storms, including tropical storms and hurricanes, cyclones, or typhoons. It is imperative that these dangers be taken into account when plotting a course.
The cargo ship El Faro is a prime example. This ship sank when it advertently sailed into a rapidly intensifying hurricane due to the captain’s misuse of navigational and forecasting software, and his failure to listen to the concerns of his crew regarding his chosen course.
Human error can manifest in a multitude of ways that can lead to dangerous incidents or even death for the crew and passengers of a ship. A maritime lawyer can help if you or a family member have been the victim of a maritime accident caused by human error or negligence.