SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – The 9th Circuit found the owner of an oil tanker 30 percent responsible for collision with a tug boat driven by a captain with a history of medical and alcohol problems.
The court upheld the fault assessments meted out to tug boat company Crowley Marine Services and oil tank operator Maritrans Inc.
Maritrans hired Crowley to pull in its tanker, the Allegiance. Crowley dispatched two boats for the job: the Sea King and the Chief. The Sea King, driven by Capt. Donald Nekeferoff, was tethered to the Allegiance on the tanker’s port shoulder, when the ships’ paths converged and they collided. Crowley claimed Maritrans should have avoided the tug boat, while Maritrans claimed the tug boat failed to maintain a proper lookout. The district court found Maritrans only 25 percent liable for the accident.
A three-judge panel reversed and remanded, concluding that the Allegiance, as the overtaking vessel, had a duty to steer clear of the Sea King.
After reconsideration, the district court revised the fault allocation, holding Crowley 70 percent liable.
The appellate court upheld the conclusion that the tug boat was more to blame.
“Here, the Sea King‘s trajectory eventually placed her in an ‘extremis’ position where an accident could have been avoided only by her own action,” Judge Gould wrote. “Captain Nekeferoff’s last-minute maneuvers were ineffective and too late to avert collision.”