U.S. Department of Justice Files Suit Against Shipping Giant

Credit: tingey-injury-law-firm-unsplash

The U.S. Department of Justice is suing Japanese shipping giant MOL to recover damages from the allision of the company’s sole cruise ship with the U.S. Navy fuel pier in Apra, Guam, reports the Maritime Executive.

Suit against shipping giant

On December 30, 2018, the Japanese-flagged cruise ship left Apra, bound for Saipan with 372 passengers and 252 crewmembers. As she departed the harbor, she struck the U.S. Navy’s Delta fuel pier. No injuries or pollution were reported, but the vessel sustained a large hole near her stern, above the waterline. The fuel dock was also damaged.

In an after-accident investigation, the vessel’s master told the National Transportation Safety Bureau (NTSB) that when he had attempted to pivot the vessel in the turning basin, he had mistakenly moved the joystick that controlled the vessel’s engines and rudder to the full astern position and left it there. He also reported that he drank one and a half cans of whisky and soda 3-4 hours before the accident, along with a beer 2-3 hours after the accident.

The master’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) tested at 0.071 g/dL about five hours after the accident, in excess of company policy and U.S. Coast Guard limits. NTSB found that he had likely consumed more alcohol than he reported, and that it was likely that impairment from alcohol contributed to the accident.

MOL and the U.S. government have been negotiating in an attempt to reach a settlement for the damage to the dock, but so far have been unsuccessful. On Friday, the U.S. Department of Justice petitioned a federal court to order the arrest and sale of Nippon Maru in an attempt to secure $8 million to cover the damage to the pier at Apra. The suit alleges that MOL and its employees were negligent in allowing the Nippon Maru to strike a stationary object, and it references the suspicions that the master was operating under the influence of alcohol.

The suit seeks a warrant for the U.S. Marshals to pursue Nippon Maru’s arrest, condemnation, and sale. The proceeds would be used to cover repairs to the fuel pier, plus interest, costs, and punitive damages.

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Source: The Maritime Executive


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