Earlier this summer, authorities in New Zealand ordered a ship captain to pay a $3,000 after he reportedly piloted the ship into harbor with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) more than five times the legal limit. According to the maritime industry publication gCaptain, the captain was guiding a 200-meter cargo ship into port when harbor pilots noted that he smelled of alcohol. Upon boarding the vessel, local police officers performed a breathalyzer test which showed that the captain’s BAC was 1,345 micrograms – well above the 250-microgram legal limit. He was promptly placed under arrest.

Fortunately, the article does not suggest that any crewmembers were harmed as a result of the captain’s poor decision to pilot the ship severely under the influence of alcohol. But, operating a container ship – or any other vessel – while intoxicated obviously presents the potential for a severe accident that could jeopardize the safety of everyone onboard. If an alcohol-impaired ship captain causes a collision or runs aground, crewmembers and passengers can suffer costly injuries, and the law entitles them to seek just compensation.

The Risks of Alcohol Impairment Offshore

While the risks of intoxication are well-known, this unfortunately does not stop many people from putting others in harm’s way. Alcohol intoxication causes three different types of impairment, all of which can have extreme consequences on an offshore vessel:

  • Cognitive impairment – Being drunk limits a person’s ability to react to their surroundings and make sound decisions.
  • Visual impairment – Alcohol intoxication results in a reduced field of vision and blurs objects within view.
  • Manual impairment – A person who is intoxicated will act clumsily and lack control over his or her physical movements.

Of course, the risks of intoxication are not limited to causing a collision or running aground. Erratic navigation can cause equipment and supplies to shift, and intoxicated crewmembers can make poor decisions and other mistakes – both on and off-duty – that cause harm to others onboard.

Compensation for Offshore Injuries Caused by Alcohol Impairment

For offshore workers who are injured as a result of others’ drunkenness, the consequences can be substantial. Fortunately, maritime laws protect workers who are injured offshore, and suffering injuries in an alcohol-related incident may entitle workers to recover full financial compensation for their losses. Under the maritime doctrine of “seaworthiness,” vessel owners have a legal obligation to protect the safety of those onboard. While this includes protecting against issues such as slip hazards and poorly-maintained equipment, it also includes hiring a competent crew. As a result, if a ship captain or other crewmember causes an injury while intoxicated, this may support a claim for financial compensation against the vessel owner.

Speak with a Maritime Injury Lawyer in Houston, TX

If you or your spouse has been injured working offshore, it is important that you speak with an attorney about your legal rights. At Morrow & Sheppard LLP, we offer free consultations, and you pay nothing unless we win. To find out if you are entitled to compensation, please call (800) 489-2216 or request your free consultation online today.

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