Ferry Accidents: Making it to Shore Safely During the Rush-Hour Commute


Earlier in January, a Manhattan ferry transporting hundreds of morning passengers missed the dock, resulting in the injuries of commuters on their way to work. The commute started out as it normally did with passengers talking or texting on their iphones, reading the paper, or preparing briefs and materials before the start of the workday. But that day was different, a day that proved disastrous and chaotic for all involved.

For many East Coasters the ferry is the perfect way to travel from home to work However, with the abundance of alternative transportation available to commuters, accidents from ferries and other water transportation still occur and can cause serious injuries to those on board and to those on land. One of the worst ferry accidents recorded was in 2003 when a Staten Island Ferry missed the dock, killing 11 and injuring 70 others.

Improper docking was the issue at the forefront in the recent Manhattan incident. To a spectator, a docking process can seem fairly basic. But for a crew, many conditions exist that could prevent proper docking. Typically, a docking procedure involves making sure the ferry is angled, reversed and then gently propelled forward to bring itself back around for a smooth side docking. As in the Manhattan ferry incident, speculation will ensue as to what specifically went wrong.

In a ferry, unlike a car where you can hear skid sounds when too close to the curb, others don’t always hear the warning signs of an improper docking until it is too late. People are talking, the noise from the engine is loud, and outside sounds can be heard. Prevention becomes non-existent because there is nothing to alert a passenger that impending danger is up ahead. When a ferry accident does happen, what are some of the causes? Commuter ferry accidents occur when ferries miss the dock, hit another object, or overheat. Here are some other reasons:

  • Crew misjudges the distance between ferry and dock
  • Ferry runs at too high of a speed when approaching the dock
  • Inexperienced crew on board
  • Unpreparedness (of passengers)—no one sees it coming
  • Lack of power from overheating
  • Shattered glass from a sudden impact
  • Confusion of passengers when chaos occurs
  • Over boarding of the ferry
  • Oversight of enforcing safety guidelines

In the Manhattan Ferry incident, even at five miles an hour, the propulsion was significant enough to cause injury when it hit the dock. Those who were seated were propelled forward into the seats in front of them, possibly using arms and legs to brace themselves and further injuring those limbs. Most likely, objects flew from the impact and hit others. And, those positioned at the top of the stairs ready to exit, fell down the stairs, resulting in some of the more serious injuries.

The next time you are on a ferry, take a few minutes to reacquaint yourself with your surroundings and the signs on board. Physical warning signs on the ferry are positioned so that they can be read by commuters, and life preservers are available to those in need.

And, if you have been recently injured in the Manhattan ferry accident or other accident involving a ferry or other water transportation, whether on board or on land, you will want to seek the advice of someone who has experience with ferry and water transportation accidents.

You have enough to think about at the start of your day without having to worry about whether you will even make it to work in the first place. Take the time to be aware of your surroundings by knowing the exits and reading the safety signs. Make it to work safely today and every day.

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Finz & Finz, P.C. is a New York and Long Island personal injury law firm based out of Mineola, NY. It was founded in 1984 and is highly rated, with many honors and awards of excellence.