Bloodshot Eyes, Taxed Minds: Human Error’s Role In Maritime Calamities

Ask a seasoned boatswain about the greatest threat to him and his fellow sailors, and you may be surprised by his response. Is it hidden shoals? Typhoon winds? Two-ton great white man-eaters?

No, he'll tell you, if he's worth his salt; the greatest danger on the high seas is none of those things. More menacing to maritime safety than the power of Poseidon's merciless fury are the very men and women who are duty bound to take charge of a vessel's safe operation.

Most accidents at sea are caused by crewmember negligence

As early as 1963, the Secretary of the Treasury's Committee on Tanker Hazards recognized that "safety problems relate more to personnel than to material." Flash forward more than 30 years —years of advancing technology, training, and quantitative research — and an official study conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard found that approximately 80 percent of all maritime accidents are rooted in human oversights.

So what's going wrong between the bow and the stern that leads to such serious trouble? Although modern technology is constantly making nautical equipment safer and more effective, the shipping and fishing industries are still largely reliant on the human element — and there is little room for error among those struggling to get their sea legs.

Many experts attribute the majority of maritime errors to crewmembers' lack of situational awareness. Situational awareness is a broad term encompassing all human factors necessary to properly understand and respond to a given situation.

From effective communication to ample crew expertise, situational awareness must come full circle to ensure a safe oceanic voyage. Even one break in the chain — a seaman who is inadequately prepared to take control of a vessel's technological features, a captain who issues vague or ambiguous orders, a navigator who misinterprets chart data — can bring situational awareness crashing down like a breaker against the shoreline. Unfortunately, all too often this means someone in the ship's company is forced to bear the price of another's failure.

Legal recourse for injuries or death in Seattle port of call

If a human error has caused you injury at sea, or resulted in the death of a loved one, you may have a right to just compensation. Contact an experienced maritime law attorney to learn more.

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