Types of Commercial Boat Incidents: Exploring Dangers and Impacts

Commercial Boat Incidents: There can be dangers onboard commercial ships. They may explode, catch fire, capsize, run aground, or experience any of a variety of other mishaps that put their personnel in danger. These occurrences put the environment and any passengers the vessel could be carrying in jeopardy. When ships and their cargo go missing at sea, maritime corporations could suffer millions of dollars in losses. We’ll discuss the different kinds of events involving commercial vessels, the harm they inflict, and preventative measures in this post.

Commercial Boat Incidents

Commercial vessels include barges, tugs, fishing boats, cargo ships, ferries, supply boats, and cruise ships. They cross rivers, lakes, seas, and oceans. They haul people and goods, ferry staff to offshore platforms, haul other boats, trawl for crab and salmon, and carry out a host of other vital tasks that, whether we realize it or not, are part of our daily lives.

Commercial ships may encounter serious issues that endanger everyone on board when they are operated carelessly or are not seaworthy. The sea is erratic and merciless. No small errors exist.

7 Types of Commercial Boat Incidents

1. Sinking/Foundering

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The word founder in nautical parlance implies to sink. The bottom of the sea, ocean, or other body of water is where a ship that has grounded has fallen. Heavy weather, especially hurricanes or tropical storms, can cause ships to capsize. In addition, they might founder following explosions or flames that absorb too much water for them to float. Smaller boats, like fishing boats, run the risk of capizing when they attempt to raise excessively heavy loads.

Foundering is the most dangerous kind of incident involving a commercial vessel because it indicates total loss of the ship. The ship might sink with its whole crew on board, losing all of its cargo, and spewing toxins or fuel into the surrounding waters.

The sinking of the Titanic in 1912 was one of the most well-known and disastrous losses of a commercial ship. On her inaugural voyage, the British passenger liner met an iceberg and sank in the Atlantic Ocean, killing over 1,500 of the 2,224 passengers and crew members on board.

Although there hasn’t been a catastrophe comparable to the Titanic’s sinking in a long time, dozens of commercial ships—mostly cargo ships—go down every year. 876 ships lost their lives at sea worldwide between 2011 and 2020, according to Statista. There were 348 cargo ships. The remaining five categories of vessels lost during that period were tug boats (51), passenger ships (69), bulk carriers (76), and fishing vessels (120).

2. Missing

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(Credit: Britannica)

Because the oceans are so large, sometimes commercial vessels go missing with no clue as to why or where they might be. Even with today’s sophisticated radar and global positioning systems, ships can disappear. If there is no information regarding the whereabouts or state of a ship for a reasonable period of time, it is deemed missing. When a ship vanishes in this manner, it’s commonly believed that it has foundered and lost all of its crew.

Numerous vessels that remain unaccounted for to this day vanished over vast search areas or deep water, making their location and retrieval extremely costly, if they could be found at all.

The USS Cyclops’ 1918 disappearance is among the most well-known nautical mysteries. The Navy ship went missing sometime after March 4 with 309 soldiers on board. She never spoke with anyone again, no survivors were recovered, and the wreck was never discovered.

The Intrepid was a ship that was engaged in another notorious disappearance. Off the coast of Fort Pierce, Florida, in October 1996, the 65-foot yacht sent out a distress signal indicating that it was sinking and that its 16 occupants were about to abandon ship. Despite 6,000 square miles of searching by the Coast Guard, the ship and her occupants were never found.

Over the ages, stories about ships going missing have given rise to nautical folklore and beliefs concerning areas such as the Bermuda Triangle, where planes and ships just seem to disappear out of thin air. It is more likely, though, that most governments and corporations cannot or will not bear the expense and effort of looking for lost vessels.

3. Explosion/Fire

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On commercial vessels, there is a significant risk of fires and explosions. If poorly managed and controlled, even a little fire on a vessel can result in a devastating loss of life. An explosion can result in the total loss of a ship and its crew, making it a catastrophic event in and of itself.

A passenger lost their life and the Star Princess cruise ship sustained serious damage in March 2006 after a cigarette that had been left unattended caught fire. The ship was traveling to Montego Bay, Jamaica. Thirteen additional passengers sustained injuries.

The al-Salam Boccaccio 98 sank earlier that year as a result of seawater accumulating in the hull due to firefighting efforts in the engine room. The passenger boat listed and eventually sunk in the Red Sea while transporting over 1,400 passengers and crew from Saudi Arabia to Egypt. There were just 388 persons saved.

These two instances illustrate the potential consequences that a fire may have on a commercial ship. Even though both of those ships were transporting passengers, cargo ships are susceptible to fires that could result in large losses. After groundings and sinkings, fires ranked as the third most common cause of cargo losses for container ships in a study of maritime statistics from 2010 to 2019. Globally, it is believed that a significant fire occurs on a cargo ship every sixty days.

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Because they operate on platforms or boats that extract and transport extremely volatile substances, offshore workers in the oil and gas industry are also particularly vulnerable to fires and explosions.

4. Crash

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In heavy fog off the coast of Galveston, Texas, on January 14, 2020, the 600-foot tanker Bow Fortune and the 87-foot commercial fishing boat Pappy’s Pride collided. The fishing boat’s captain and two crew members perished in the collision when the Pappy’s Pride overturned and sank. It was discovered that the main reason for the crash was a lack of communication. The fishing vessel Pappy’s Pride never reacted to the Bow Fortune’s attempts to hail it or issue two warning signals.

Commercial vessel collisions take place when one ship rams into another or strikes another one. At that moment, one or both of the vessels could have been moving, moored, or anchored. The size and kind of each vessel, the impact’s location and speed, the state of the weather and sea, the kind of cargo the vessels were carrying, and a host of other variables will all affect how serious a collision is. The smaller vessel is more likely to suffer major damage when there is a significant size difference between the two, as in the instance of the Pappy’s Pride and the Bow Fortune.

5. Contact

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When referring to occurrences involving commercial vessels, contact is defined as hitting an object other than another vessel. Additionally, going aground is not included. This is known as a “allision.” A vessel may be said to have made contact or an ally when it strikes a pier, bridge, or other immovable object.

Similar to collisions, allisions may result in a vessel capsize, fragment, or founder. If the ship is transporting dangerous goods or its fuel spills into the ocean, everyone on board could be in danger and the ship could end up polluting the water.

6. Grounding and Stranding

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(Credit: Atlas Obscura)

Though stranding and grounding are two distinct instances in theory, they are sufficiently similar to be grouped together under one heading. When a ship hits the bottom (runs aground), it is said to be grounded. A vessel becomes stranded when it stays there for an extended period of time. Depending on the state of the seabed, strandings and groundings are major accidents involving commercial vessels that can result in significant damage to the vessels as well as oil spills.

Even though one would think that with today’s gear and technology, strandings and groundings should be avoidable, they nevertheless happen.

The Ever Forward, a 1,096-foot container ship, grounded in the Chesapeake Bay close to Baltimore, Maryland, in March 2022. This occurred about a year after a different vessel operated by Evergreen Marine Corp Taiwan Ltd. went aground, obstructing the Suez Canal for six days. It took almost a month for the Ever Forward to be released from its 25-foot-deep waterway when it became stuck outside the canal.

Aground in the Dominican Republic in March 2022 was Norwegian Cruise Lines’ Norwegian Escape cruise ship. The 164,000-ton ship was allegedly steered into a sandbar in the shipping canal by a strong wind while carrying 3,223 passengers and 1,618 staff members.

The grounding of the Norwegian Escape and the Ever Forward did not result in any injuries or environmental damage reports, but other events have caused considerable harm.

The Costa Concordia, an Italian cruise ship, became aground off the coast of Tuscany in January 2012. Five crew members and 27 passengers perished. After the ship veered off course, it collided with a rock formation on the ocean floor, capizing and sinking.

7. Listing and Capsizing

A catastrophic event known as “capsizing” occurs when a marine vessel capsizes. A commercial vessel that capsizes flips over on its side or ends up upside down in the water. Other incidents, such as a fire, a strong storm, or a collision, can lead commercial vessels to capsize. That’s what occurred to the 129-foot lift boat Seacor Power in April 2021 when it capsized during a strong storm off the coast of Louisiana. Out of her crew of nineteen, only six were saved.

Listing is comparable to capsizing, only the ship is not completely overturned. A vessel lists when it tilts to one side, usually due to an uneven weight distribution or absorbing water. A boat may list to the left or right, or to port or starboard. A vessel that lists too much may be completely capsized, sink, and be impossible to right.

The Impact of Incidents on Commercial Boats

An event involving a commercial vessel has the potential to result in a catastrophic loss of life and environmental harm. For instance, thousands of guests and crew members could be in danger from a cruise ship that capsizes. The whole crew of a commercial fishing vessel could perish if it sinks. A cargo ship that catches fire might endanger both the environment and its crew. An offshore rig explosion, like the one that happened on Deepwater Horizon, could result in billions of dollars’ worth of damage, the loss of life, and environmental dangers from spills.

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Incidents involving commercial vessels have significant financial consequences. For instance, the Costa Concordia accident is estimated to have cost $2 billion in losses. Every year, hundreds of cargo ship containers are lost at sea due to a variety of mishaps, including foundering, fires, and listing, costing hundreds of millions of dollars in losses. At the Port of Long Beach, California, in November 2020, the ONE Apus suffered the loss of almost 1,800 containers, valued at $90 million, due to strong winds.

The psychological ramifications of commercial boat incidents are far worse than the financial ones. Commercial ship workers shouldn’t have to worry about their personal safety or survival because their employers aren’t taking adequate measures to stop situations that could endanger them. It shouldn’t be a concern for passengers that a cruise will become a struggle for survival. Maritime businesses must do better.

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