May 29, 2015 - Articles - by Dodson & Hooks, APLC
On April 13, 2015, U.S. authorities arrested the Greek bulker Privocean after it suddenly broke free of its moorings – causing extensive property and environmental damage along the Mississippi River. The event, which spanned just 45 minutes, resulted in damage to the down river towing vessel Texas, followed by a final collision with the crude oil tanker Bravo. Furthermore, the Privocean is alleged to have caused extensive damage to a docking facility owned by Ergon-St. James, a Mississippi-based crude oil processing company.
While no personal injuries were reported, the owner of the vessel – Malta’s Bariba Corporation – is likely on the hook for millions of dollars in property damage, as well as possible environmental liability. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, approximately 420 gallons of oil spilled into the Mississippi River, along with another 126 gallons spilled onto the deck of the Bravo.
According to reports, the owners of the Bravo – the Geden Line – are seeking $10 million for damages, while owners of the dock, the Texas vessel and several involved tug boats are seeking an aggregate $30 million.
Property Damage on the Water
Unlike a typical property damage case occurring on land, collisions and allisions on water require a more precise understanding of maritime laws, particularly as pertaining to property damage similar to that described above. In the above Privocean case, the Greek vessel came untethered from its moorings, resulting in several allisions with non-moving vessels.
In this scenario, a moving vessel is presumed at fault in a subsequent action for property damage, leaving the defendant with the burden of proving otherwise. Likewise, properly handling a maritime cause of action “includes a host of special rights, duties, rules, and procedures” as the Eighth Circuit artfully pointed out in In re American River Transp. Co., an allision case with similar factual underpinnings. In re American River Transp. Co., 728 F.3d 839 (8th Cir. Ct. of App. 2013).
Help in the Event of Personal Injury
Thankfully, no individual injuries were reported following the series of allisions between the Privocean and its downriver victims. However, maritime employment is considered one of the most dangerous industries and it is not uncommon for seamen to face daily harrowing situations in port or offshore.
In the event a personal injury or death occurs while at sea or onboard a vessel, the federal Jones Act will be applicable to the case to help the victim or his family recover the personal costs attributable to the accident. Unlike international maritime laws, the Jones Act significantly expanded an injured workers’ right to sue based on negligence or unseaworthiness, making it an extremely employee-friendly statute.
If you recently experienced an injury onboard an American vessel and are facing pushback from your employer, contact an experienced maritime law firm in Baton Rouge today.
Call Dodson & Hooks, ALPC Right Away
The practice of maritime law is extremely nuanced and our team of Baton Rouge maritime accident lawyers can help you recover in the event of property damage or personal injury while at sea. For more information about your maritime rights, please contact our office today.