Joke may often be made about the seaworthiness of a vessel, yet when it comes to safety of yourself and your fellow maritime workers (as well as the contractual promises made to clients), the condition of your boat is no laughing matter. Most in Manhattan would likely assume that a ship would not put to sea if it were not seaworthy, yet it should be remembered that ship owners and freight carriers are principally engaged in the business of commerce, and that their goals are the delivery of goods. If this goal superseded ensuring the safety of your vessel, the they open themselves up to liability.
Yet exactly how is seaworthiness defined? It goes far beyond a boat's ability to simply remain afloat and traverse the waters it travels. According to the Dry Bulk Shipping News and Notes shared by Handybulk, seaworthiness describes the physical condition of a vessel, along with other factors such as:
- The competency of its crew
- Its fuel and supply stores
- Its facilities and equipment required for the transport of cargo
In the event that of those elements is found inadequate, and that inadequacy contributes to a maritime accident, the ship owner is to be held liable. This is true even in the event that the failures that contributed to the accident were not directly the ship owner's fault.
The reason for this absolute liability for seaworthiness failures is because by contracting with a company for the transport of cargo, a ship owner or freight carriers obligates itself to provide a seaworthy vessel. Thus, any issues with the vessel's condition and operation may constitute an inability to fulfill that obligation.