Since the days of sail, technology has become increasingly more advanced in the navigation and handling of vessels. As technology has become more sophisticated, so has a mariner’s reliance on electronic navigational aids. While technological advances in the maritime industry have made it easier for mariners, it has also resulted in reduced crews and a much busier navigational bridge. Despite the advances in navigational and operational technology for vessels, marine casualties continue to occur, even on perfectly clear, sunny days. When a mariner is involved in a casualty (collision, allision, grounding, oil/chemical spill, etc.) his/her license and professional livelihood immediately become at risk.
Consider the following scenario:
“You are the licensed operator of a passenger vessel, operating at night on an inland river with a wedding party and 200 guests on board. You have been at the helm for five hours, the time is 2300 and the weather is clear. You check-in with VTS, which informs you that there is one outbound tug and tow unit pushing two loaded regulation benzene barges about two miles from your position. You get the name of the outbound tow and attempt to contact the tow as you make your turn into the river’s main tributary. The outbound tow’s operator responds to your call. You ask about meeting arrangements and agree to meet him on two whistles because he wants to turn into the smaller tributary you are leaving. You visually observe the tow and it appears he is shaping up nicely on the red side of the channel for a two-whistle meeting arrangement. Because you can see the tow, you do not bother looking at your radar. You continue to approach the other tow and you see the green of his starboard light, everything looks good for the meeting, you settle back into your chair. Suddenly and unexpectedly, and less than one-fourth of a mile away, the tow turns hard starboard directly in front of you. You attempt to react, but cannot back down or alter course fast enough. Your vessel collides with the tow’s barge. The impact holes the tow’s lead barge, spilling benzene into the river. Now what?”
-Brenton Allison, “License Insurance … Do I really need it?” Foghorn, Nov. 2007.
The above scenario is one of many situations a licensed mariner may find themselves in the course of operating a vessel. It is also a scenario that may end with the mariner having his/her license suspended or revoked. The last place a mariner wants to be is in front of a Coast Guard MSU investigator answering questions or involved in a Coast Guard Suspension and Revocation hearing without counsel. One common misconception some mariners have is that the employer or company will defend them after the marine casualty. Unfortunately, more often than not, mariners find themselves alone and solely responsible to insure their license and professional livelihood remains intact. This can be a difficult and complex task to face without aggressive and knowledgeable legal counsel. The attorneys at Gillman & Allison, LLP are USCG licensed mariners and experienced in representing mariners involved in casualties and subsequent Coast Guard inquiries and/or Suspension and Revocation hearings.
If you are a licensed mariner and you have been involved in a maritime casualty, or you are having difficulty in renewing your license due to a criminal offense, medical condition, or other issue, contact Gilman & Allison, LLP for a free confidential consultation and evaluation. Gilman & Allison, LLP offers competitive hourly rates for mariners who are either involved in a maritime casualty or need assistance in renewing their license.