International Transport Intermediaries Club (ITIC) has reimbursed a marine surveyor accused of negligence by the owner of a ferry which sustained significant machinery damage while being towed to a shipyard.
The ferry, which operated in North American waters, was due to be towed to a shipyard to undergo a refit. A marine surveyor was engaged by the shipyard to undertake a ‘fit for tow’ survey and to provide a certificate of approval confirming that the towage arrangements between the tug and the ferry were satisfactory.
The surveyor completed his survey and issued the certificate of approval. Three days later, however, the ferry took on water during the course of the tow and sustained considerable damage to its main machinery compartment. The owner of the vessel brought proceedings against the shipyard, the tug company and the marine surveyor for repair costs of US$750,000.
The owner alleged that the surveyor had been negligent in confirming that all watertight openings were closed, whereas expert evidence suggested that water had entered the vessel via open air vents. The surveyor maintained that these air vents were a rarity, that it was outside the scope of the survey to inspect them, and that liability should fall on the company undertaking the tow.
Mediation proceedings took place at which the owner acknowledged contributory negligence on its part and agreed to reduce its claim to US$500,000. All three defendants, including the marine surveyor, contributed to a settlement in this amount.