The one thing your mother taught you when you were but a wee babe was your manners, saying your sorry even if you weren’t entirely at fault. This is probably the worst thing she could have drilled into your head if your chosen profession is of a sea-going nature.
The idea of proving and/or assigning blame is the one thing that keeps legions of Admiralty lawyers in business. Years ago, my father told me “never admit you’re wrong”(when it comes to this industry), I thought it was nuts but he couldn’t have been more right.
I read an article in Marine News magazine recently that was submitted by a Mr Randy O’Neill in the License Insurance industry. He wanted to drive home the point of how, as professionals, we need to show a heightened level of awareness in and around recreational boaters. Gee, ya’ think?
There isn’t enough detail included in the case he cites to really know what happened or how, but he relates a “near miss” involving a small pleasure boat and a tug and tow that was approaching a bridge.
In a nutshell: The tug and tow had to maneuver for the bridge in tight quarters and came in close proximity to the pleasure boat (which was anchored and fishing in the channel of course). The small boat was apparently in radio contact with the tug and tow and was warned to move, there was no collision.
After the “near miss” the small boat called and complained to the USCG. The tug’s captain heard the complaint being transmitted and tendered the small boat with an apology for the close call and went on his way. Good manners, but a bad move.
The USCG saw the apology as an admission of guilt and tried to suspend the tug master’s license for 9 months. No physical contact was made and no one got hurt but that didn’t stop the authorities from seeking an S and R hearing.
In the end the USCG wanted his head and got it. The apology was somehow seen as an admission of negligence. The idea that the tug master was trying to be a nice guy (thanks Mom) went to his being convicted of not hitting the little guy.
The USCG wanted to go after somebody and I’m guessing the tug captain was the only license they could get. The tug captain’s license was suspended for a month and he had six months probation tacked on for good measure. What kind of sanction did the little guy get for anchoring in the channel, as far as I can tell, nada.
I don’t have any more detail than that. The tug captain may have already had prior circumstances or encounters that made him a candidate for suspension, or the more likely scenario was being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Either way, the suspension appears excessive since there wasn’t any clear reason (apparent in the story) to punish the professional except for the fact his was the only license on the river at the time. The moral of the story is a general cautionary tale but it’s oversimplified by the lack of details. Was the tug being reckless? Did the small boat get enough warning before the “close encounter”, I can’t say based on what I read.
This naturally brings me to the idea of license insurance. I did some reading on the gCaptain website and came across an article written by Mr. John Konrad that clearly states the pro’s of putting a policy to cover your license in your pocket. I’m convinced the idea is a good one.
The article is in two parts, written a short time ago and everyone should at least read for themselves what the man has to say.
The point in the end is that no matter the situation, admitting fault, offering a specific apology or any apology for that matter, will bite you on the ass. Even if nothing suffered any harm. Not just with the authorities, but with your insurer as well. Apologies, realistically speaking, equate with fault. Something we have to consider since our P&I guy wants to avoid public statements about details until things are examined and settled. Your license insurance representative will probably tell you the same thing, keep a tight lip and say; I want a lawyer.