A maritime accident occurred recently in Jacksonville, Florida when a cruise ship crashed into and became wedged under the Main St. Bridge on the evening of Friday, November 25th. While no one was injured, minor damage was caused. The bridge also had to be shut down to traffic for several hours while the ship was removed. The incident highlights the potential dangers of operating vessels, especially in cities and along crowded rivers. There are dangers for passengers and for crew as well.
Ship Collides with Bridge
The incident occurred in the evening and the boat in question was the American Star, which had left its berth in St. Augustine earlier that day, around 11:30 in the morning. The river cruise ship was to dock on the North Bank in Jacksonville, but collided with the bridge before it could make it into its berth.
The ship passed under the Main St. Bridge in Jacksonville once before the incident occurred. It passed under the bridge when it was lifted, but as it attempted to dock, drifted back towards the bridge and became lodged underneath it. There was no local pilot operating the ship at the time. Pilots are often used to help navigate ships into ports. Pilots take over from ship captains, but that did not happen in this incident.
Possible Causes of the Collision
The lack of a local pilot may have contributed to the crash of the ship into the local bridge. While a pilot may not have been required, these professionals are experts in their own local ports and are usually more qualified that ship captains to get vessels into port without incident.
Another potential cause of this particular accident was the bow thruster. This piece of equipment may have failed, causing the ship to drift back toward the bridge, but further investigation is needed to determine the exact cause of the accident.
Collision Causes Traffic Jam
This incident fortunately did not cause any injuries to passengers on the cruise ship, to any crew members, or to any onlookers as the vessel struck the bridge. However, the accident did cause serious upheaval. The ship remained lodged under the bridge, stuck in position for over three hours. It was eventually freed at 11:45 the same night and for all that time the bridge remained closed to vehicle traffic. For onlookers and pedestrians, the incident was dramatic.
The Dangers of Vessel Collisions
It was lucky that in this accident no one was hurt or killed, but that is not always the case. Collisions of ships with other ships, with docks or ports, with bridges, or with any other structure can cause major damage and cause injury to workers on the ships, passengers, and people on the structures that have been struck.
These kinds of collisions can jar people on vessels and cause them to fall overboard, to fall into cargo holds, to trip and strike an object, which can cause injuries, or to be struck by falling equipment or cargo, which can be deadly. When the operator of a vessel is at fault for a collision, or the owner of the vessel for not maintaining its systems or providing adequate training, they can be held liable for any damage, injury, or death.