Washington Law Review


Admiralty courts adjudicating claims arising from merchant vessel groundings or allisions are often required to allocate fault for the casualty among three possible parties: The officers and owner of the vessel, the vessel's embarked pilot, and the Coast Guard or any other governmental agency providing navigation services upon which the vessel operators relied. To determine fault, the court must evaluate each party's conduct under the appropriate standard of care. This Comment examines the standard of care applicable to merchant vessel officers and pilots. It concludes that some courts apply a standard to these mariners in determining liability that is less demanding than the standard established by international and federal regulations for merchant vessel navigation, and fails to promote adequately maritime safety. This Comment proposes that courts adopt and enforce a "professional mariner" standard of care for merchant vessel officers and pilots, comprised of elements of general maritime law, the United States Navigation Safety Regulations (NSR's), and the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW). By enforcing the professional mariner standard in merchant vessel grounding and allision cases, courts will promote safety, eliminate the inconsistency between court-imposed standards and government-promulgated standards, and encourage expeditious settlement of claims.

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