A federal court has awarded a multimillion-dollar judgment to the family of a tugboat deck hand who was killed in a capstan related accident on New Jersey’s Hackensack River in 2009.
This study examined powered craft operators’ ability to identify a kayak under differing visibility conditions. The kayaker was either wearing a dark PFD or a fluorescent shirt over the PFD, and positioned against a water or land background. Results indicate that the background the kayak is seen against affects identification distance regardless of garment worn. Also, the paddle flash was consistently noticed first, regardless of background or shirt condition, although the fluorescent shirt helped participants identify the object as a kayak. Identification distance and its effect on boater safety and education are discussed in the context of avoiding collisions with very small craft.
Collisions between non-powered recreational watercraft (kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, etc.) and faster, wind or motor powered vessels can be catastrophic for passengers in the slower vessel.
Any boater experienced with congested waterways is likely aware of the threat of a collision, but prior to 2012 almost no scientific research on the topic had been published.
Recreational boaters and professional mariners alike often share anecdotal advice on boating safety, but that guidance can be of mixed value, and lacks scientific merit.
In 2012, Robson Forensic published research that quantified factors in small boat collisions such as visibility thresholds and boater actions that influence visibility.
This article provides an overview of that study, discussing the relationship between speed and visibility in small craft collisions, known danger zones, and provides tips for all vessel operators to reduce the likelihood and severity of marine mishaps. The complete study can be accessed here.
In this case a worker in a copper tubing processing plant became trapped in a machine while trying to clear a jam. Robson Forensic was retained by plaintiff’s counsel to investigate the incident.
Historically, the majority of towing vessels in inland and coastwise service are classified as “uninspected vessels.” Although inland and coastwise towing vessels are regulated by CFR, there are no requirements that they be classed and inspected like ships. The USCG has drafted Subchapter M Proposed Regulations for Towing Vessels that, when enacted, would require the approximate 6,500 towing vessels longer than 26 feet in length to be USCG inspected.
In this case, Robson Forensic expert, Bart Eckhardt, P.E., opined that the machine manufacturer failed to provide an interlock for the power take-off shaft guard and that the manufacturer failed to ensure the power take-off shaft guard was with the machine when the equipment was resold to the plaintiff’s employer. The absence of a shaft guard exposed the plaintiff to an unreasonable hazard and was a cause of his injury.
Experts at Robson Forensic were involved in a lengthy trial, in which a federal judge ruled in favor of the plaintiff. In this case, a 58-year-old deckhand employed on a tugboat was crushed to death when entrapped in the capstan of the boat by a towline under great pressure during an improperly conducted “swing maneuver.”
This paper was originally presented at the 2013 ASME/USCG Workshop on Marine Technology & Standards in Arlington, VA.