Adrift At Sea—The Duty Of Passing Ships To Rescue Stranded Seafarers

Stranded Ship
Robert D. Peltz | Article

Twenty-six cruise lines headquartered in North America, which form the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), presently sail 225 ships throughout the world. In addition, numerous cargo ships, tankers, and other vessels are operated by companies maintaining their bases of operations in the United States. As a result, it is not uncommon for these vessels periodically to pass in the vicinity of distressed ships of all types needing assistance. Such occurrences are especially common for those ships sailing in the vicinity of Cuba and Haiti, where politically oppressed and economically deprived individuals often attempt to escape to other countries, including the United States, in rafts and all manner of unseaworthy crafts or vessels.

Although most cruise ships and other vessels render assistance to such distressed crafts, on occasion some do not stop, resulting in serious injury or death to the abandoned seafarers. In these cases, the question arises as to whether the owner of a ship that fails to render assistance can be held civilly liable for abandoning or refusing to rescue such crafts.