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Multi ship collision and apportionment of liability

In a multi ship collision it can be a difficult task to apportion liability. Approaching the question in a broad common sense way in The Panamax Alexander [2020] the UK court apportioned 100% liability to one ship, making it a rare case. And what made it unique - Masters giving evidence from high seas.

The first vessel in a convoy of 8 suffered an engine breakdown and blocked the Suez canal. VHF broadcast was made. Mooring boats were lowered & tug assistance called as vessels behind started preparing to moor to the canal banks. The 8th vsl (A) collided with the 7th (B) which was at anchor. These two vessels then collided with another vsl (C) which was moored. The relevant rules in play were 5, 6, 7 and 8 of COLREGS.

C did not advise A & B of her intention to moor. Did this cause the collisions? or was it A's failure to moor.

As per the court everything turned on A's appraisal of the situation. She was indecisive and did not consider mooring. A’s statement that she was lining up to pass the vessels moored ahead was untrue as revealed by VDR transcripts. The 1st collision constituted the cause of other 2 collisions. Position of B & C was described as being on horns of multiple dilemmas.

To moor or not? Well, you better do if the vessels ahead are doing it too....

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