Ship had duty to monitor weather
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals last week upheld a lower court’s finding that a ship's owner and operator were negligent by failing to monitor and interpret available weather information and for sailing a vessel into the Port of New Orleans and the path of Hurricane Katrina when there was sufficient time to divert to a safe port in the western Gulf of Mexico.
During the storm, lines holding the small Panamanian bulker Chios Beauty and it struck barges and grounded towboats owned by Crescent Towing and Salvage.
On appeal, the defendant’s claimed the district court erred in applying a regular negligence standard of care, rather than the heightened “in extremis” standard, citing precedent that have held errors in judgment committed by a vessel put in sudden peril through no fault of her own are to be leniently judged.
But the appeals court said the captain “had ample time to find a safer berth and was not in a position of peril at the time he decided to proceed to New Orleans.”
He had access to continuously updated weather information through his NAVSTAR and IMARSAT systems and could have acted upon this information, the court said.
The appeals court decision in Crescent Towing & Salvage Co. v. Chios Beauty can be found here.