Home >> New International Encyclopedia, Volume 5 >> Coaching to Commerce_3 >> Collisions of Vessels

Collisions of Vessels

vessel, fault, rules, collision and courts

COLLISIONS OF VESSELS (from Lat. col lisio, from collide•e, to dash together, from eon-, together + brdere, to dash). To prevent vessels running against one another in passing, there arc 'rules of the road' (q.v.) at sea as well as on land. In both the United States and Great Britain regulations are laid down which, though not having the force of law, are recog nized by the admiralty courts, and govern the decisions in eases of collisions. In general, they are analogous to the rules observed by pedes trians in crowded thoroughfares, and by vehicles on highways. It is at night that the danger of collision is greatest; and hence the necessity for a well-arranged system of lights and other pre cautions. Of 3575 casualties of all kinds on and near the coasts of the United Kingdom in ISSO-SI, 713 were due to collisions; of these 69 resulted in total loss. The transatlantic steam ers running between Queenstown, or the Chan nel ports, and New York have adopted the 'lane system.' first advocated by Lieutenant Maury, U. S. N., and afterwards developed by the Ilydro graphic Office. U. S. Navy, and approved by the Marine Conference held at 'Washington in 1889. This consists in the assignment of a definite lane or track to each separate line of steamships, along which route their vessels are required to maintain their course.

It has been held by American courts that, if a collision happens without fault, and no blame can be charged to those in charge of either vessel, each party must bear its own loss. In case both parties are at fault, neither can have relief at common law: but maritime courts aggregate the damage to both vessels and their cargoes, and divide the amount equally between the two. In case of inscrutable fault, that is, by

a fault of those in charge of one or both vessels. and yet under such circumstances that it is impossible to learn who is at fault, the rule of equal division is also adopted. Where the fault is on the part of one vessel and no fault on the other, the owners of the vessel at fault must bear their own loss, and are also liable for the damage to the other vessel. In some eases the personal liability of owners is limited to the value of the vessel and freight. Strict laws, rules, signals. etc., are adopted by all nations to prevent collisions. (See NAVIGATION LAWS.) But, no matter how exacting may be the rules. cases will occur when their following would result in disaster. No vessel should unneces sarily incur the probability of collision by strict adherence to the rules. If it is clearly in the power of one vessel to avoid collision by depart ing from the rules. she will be held lurid to do so; but a vessel is not required to depart from the rule when she cannot do so without danger. A proper lookout must be kept: the absence of such a lookout is in itself evidence of negligence. In some eases certain lights must he kept. Losses of a vessel injured by a col lision are within the ordinary policy of insur ance: hut when the collision is the fault of the insured vessel, or of both vessels, the insurer is not ordinarily liable for injury done to the other vessel which may he decreed against the vessel insured. although recent policies provide that the insurer shall be liable in such ease.