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A look at the 2016 maritime accidents

The National Transportation Safety Board has published it’s Safer Seas Digest for 2016, which details several maritime accidents that occurred in various locations throughout the world. Two of these occurred in Alaska. The NTSB provides a list of “lessons learned” in order to assist mariners in the prevention of accidents in the future and the reduction of risk.

In order to ensure safety on the seas, mariners must avoid being on duty while overly fatigued or medicated. Fatigue is the cause of most accidents in all kinds of transportation and travel by sea is no exception. The NTSB advises mariners to find other mariners to cover their shifts if they are fatigued. Mariners should consult physicians regarding the appropriate use of medication while on duty. Some medications may preclude service on certain vessels.

Proper maintenance and testing can ensure that alarms, pressures, loads, tools, equipment and parts are all secured, operational and reliable. Without making the efforts to ensure these precautions are taken, vessels may be especially at risk of accidents, including fires and flooding.

Depending on conditions out of mariners’ control, additional measures may be taken to reduce risk. By consulting with experts and locals, mariners can stay informed regarding conditions and necessary precautions. Further, mariners can ensure that they are able respond to emergencies in an effective an efficient manner. They must be aware of “high-risk spaces” and ensure they have access to them.

Unfortunately, at times, mariners may become distracted. According to the report, “engaging in tasks other than vessel operation can have dangerous consequences.” This can include communications beyond those necessary for the proper performance of duties.

The kinds of accidents involving vessels under the watch of NTSB included fire, flooding, capsizing, collision, allusion and grounding. Some accidents may be unavoidable but many can be prevented if mariners learn lessons from previous accidents and implement changes going forward. In any of the above situations, injuries to mariners can be substantial. Justice requires that persons injured be compensated fairly by those who are liable. 

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