HomeLibraryMaritime AccidentsNTSB warns cell phone use may cause serious maritime accidents

NTSB warns cell phone use may cause serious maritime accidents


Everyone knows about the dangers of using cell phones while driving. However, little is said about the risk of cell phone use on maritime vessels. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is urging the Coast Guard to tighten restrictions on cell phone use by Coast Guard officers. It is also requesting that the Coast Guard to issue a broad safety advisory to the entire maritime industry warning of the risks of cell phone use.

The request from the NTSB comes after the announcement that crew members aboard two Coast Guard boats involved in separate collisions in California and South Carolina last year were using wireless devices for conversation or text messaging that was unrelated to vessel operations. The collision killed one person and injured 10 others.

The first maritime accident occurred on December 5 at Charleston, South Carolina. Two Coast Guard boats, each with a crew of three, were returning to base after escorting a cargo ship. One boat collided with the Thriller 09, a small vessel that was carrying 22 passengers on a tour of Christmas light displays. Six civilian passengers were injured.

In the second vessel collision, a Coast Guard boat with a crew of five collided with a 24-foot pleasure boat during San Diego Bay’s Parade of Lights on Dec. 20. There were 13 people aboard the civilian boat; an 8-year-old boy was killed and four others were seriously injured. No Coast Guard personnel were injured.

The family of the boy sued the Coast Guard. Four petty officers are facing Coast Guard charges ranging from involuntary manslaughter to negligent homicide and dereliction of duty. They may face a court-martial.

The accidents are still under investigation and probable cause has not yet been determined.

The Coast Guard issued a policy on July 16 that prohibits the use of cell phones and texting devices by the boat operator — the person at the wheel and throttles — while a vessel is in motion. The same policy prohibits other crew members from using cell phones unless expressly approved by the boat operator or coxswain.

Coast Guard records show that there were 4,730 boating accidents in 2009. More than twenty percent of the accidents involved either “operator inattention” or “improper lookout”. This is the largest cause of boating accidents.

Maritime work is dangerous.  Distracted vessel operators can cause serious harm to others onboard. To learn more about your rights after a maritime accident, contact the Louisiana maritime attorneys at The Young Firm.  When you call us at 866-715-3664, be sure to request your free copy of “Employee’s Guide to Maritime Injury Law.”



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