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Why you should consider the freeboard of a vessel before sailing

If you're unfamiliar with maritime terminology, as many across the nation are, then you've probably never heard of the term freeboard. Because you've never heard of it, you've also probably never considered how important it is when determining the safety of a vessel on certain waterways. In today's post, we'd like to explain what freeboard is to illustrate why you should consider it before operating a vessel.

For those who don't know, freeboard is the distance between the waterline and a ship's upper deck. This measurement is important when operating a vessel on certain waterways, particularly on large lakes and salt-water bodies, where sizeable waves are possible. If a ship's freeboard is too low, a sizeable wave could wash over the ship's deck, causing it to take on water and potentially sink in the process.

Now that you know what freeboard is, you understand its importance when operating vessels on certain bodies of water. You may even be able to think of a few ship accidents in which inadequate freeboard was to blame, such as the Argo shipwreck, which had ties to New York because of the ship's owner, a tug and barge businessman who operated a fleet around New York.

When ship operators fail to take into consideration a ship's freeboard, they inevitably put their crew in danger. As some shipwrecks have shown, crew may be seriously injured or even killed when a ship sinks after taking on too much water. In cases like this, surviving crew members and the families of those crew members who have been lost may have grounds to collect civil damages courtesy of the Jones Act.

It's important to point out, however, that filing a maritime claim for compensation can be challenging, which is why it's a good idea to seek legal counsel right away if you believe you have a claim for damages.

Source:, "Freeboard: What it Means and Why it's Important," Paul Bruno, Accessed Dec. 1, 2015

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