Safety Zone

Capt_Peter_Squicciarini Operating in the ‘other’ fog can kill too

January 24, 2013

If you read Joel Milton’s blog about operating in fog, he was talking about the meteorological temperature dew point spread that causes the mist that closes in around you. Of course, this always occurs at the worst time and place.

If you can’t see where you’re going, bad things can happen. His advice to limit or avoid sailing in fog is very prudent.

But there is another kind of fog, and it is not Mother Nature’s doing. It is man-made and self-inflicted. Even in the clearest weather, not looking (and seeing) where you are going can kill you just as fast as Joel’s fog.

Rule 5 – “Lookout,” of the Navigation Rules states: “Every vessel shall at all times maintain a proper lookout by sight and hearing as well as by all available means appropriate in the prevailing circumstances and conditions so as to make a full appraisal of the situation and of the risk of collision.”

Failing to keep a proper lookout has been the cause of many a bad day at sea. Motoring around without a proper lookout is just asking for trouble. Add in allisions, groundings, and near misses to round out the consequences of failing to observe Rule 5, not just in Joel’s fog, but every day you’re underway.

In 2010, the tug Caribbean Sea and sludge barge Resource collided with the amphibious passenger vehicle DUKW 34 on the Delaware River. It was a classic and tragic example of the failure to maintain a proper lookout. The watch was distracted and wasn’t being a vigilant lookout. He never saw the DUKW. Two fatalities resulted.

Every day that I’m out in the harbor I see tugs pushing barges where the tugs’ wheelhouse can’t see ahead, around, or over the barge. I expect to see a lookout with a radio forward on the barge. Too often I don’t see that lookout. The guy is sailing blind.

Violate Rule 5 at your, and everyone else’s, peril. So watch where you’re going.

Sail safe!

Expand/View Comments -  1 Comments
01/24/2013 18:57:44 Fred Goldsmith says:

A violation of Rule 5, the lookout rule, is also deemed a violation of a safety statute or regulation and, under the general maritime law's "Pennsylvania Rule," when an accident occurs and litigation results, the violating vessel (and its company) will be presumed at fault and required to prove not only that the rule violation did not cause the accident, but that it "could not have." Further, in Jones Act personal injury litigation, where the company violates a safety statute and this is causally related to the accident, the seaman cannot be held comparatively negligent or at fault, i.e., his damages, should he (or she) prevail, cannot be reduced. Finally, such a rule violation can trigger a finding of "negligence per se." Rule 5 and the other Inland Rules are now found in the Code of Federal Regulations. Serious stuff when a rule, statute, or regulation is violated. Fred Goldsmith, Goldsmith & Ogrodowski, LLC, River, Rail & Motorcycle Lawyers, Pittsburgh, PA


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