Gangway and Boarding Accidents

Working near or on a vessel poses numerous health risks for workers. However, one source of ship accidents concerns the gangway. Serious incidents affect not only employees but also visitors and tourists who travel on cruises.


Boarding mishaps often occur because of inclement weather that creates slippery conditions on the pathway leading to and from a craft. The failure to alert people about the dangers of wet gangways can lead to a destructive slip. Improperly maintained walking surfaces between a shore and the entrance to a vessel also contributes to employee and passenger falls. Unless you put yourself in harm’s way by performing an unsafe maneuver, the liability for the slipping most likely falls on the owner of the ship. Other possible causes include inadequately connected gangways that prompt a sudden shift in the structure of the pathway. The gangway rope might have failed as well.

Boarding falls often lead to head and back injuries, as well as bone and muscle ailments for the arms, legs, and shoulders. The worst case accident scenario is an event called “man overboard.” Despite the gender reference, the incident can affect women and children. The serious event can occur because of bad weather and/or a turbulent open body of water. Prolonged exposure to cold water might cause the potential life threatening medical condition called hypothermia. The potential of drowning also exists, and any deaths caused by vessels owners are legal cause for the filing of a wrongful death lawsuit.

Risk vs. Negligence

Working in the maritime industry produces at the very least, challenging work conditions. The higher than average health risks presented by making a living on a craft does not mean you have to accept employer negligence that exacerbated the health concerns. Several industry and more importantly federally issued safety standards apply to the prevention of walkway and boarding accidents.

For examples, members of the ship’s crew must closely follow safety guidelines to protect tourists enjoying cruise vacations. Vessel operators must implement safety measures that protect the team of seamen who have made employment on navigable waters a vocation. Lack of training and poor maintenance creates legal liability for the owner. Many cases of negligence involve overworked crew members who made poor decisions under intense pressure.


For workers and passengers who suffer physical damage because of a gangway and boarding accident triggered by a faulty pathway, a few maritime laws offer some financial protection in the form of compensation. Both the Jones Act and Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) include provisions that require negligent employers to pay monetary damages for lost wages, medical treatment, and pain and suffering. The LHWCA includes a provision that requires employers to offer rehabilitation services to injured employees. Some cases mandate the payment of a stipend for living expenses, as long as the worker received injuries that resulted from an accident caused by company negligence.

The myriad maritime laws passed in the state, and federal level can confuse harbor workers and tourists who temporarily live on cruise ships. If you believe you have sustained wounds because of operator neglect, you should contact an attorney who has successfully litigated many similar cases. After an initial consultation, the lawyer will decide whether you have enough evidence to file a lawsuit against the employer, or if you were a passenger, file a lawsuit against the vessel owner and members of the crew.

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