In a somewhat unusual case, the Supreme Court of British Columbia recently concluded a terminal was responsible for the injury to a seaman who fell from a terminal-supplied gangway while returning to his ship. The case was decided by Madame Justice Dillon who comments extensively on a terminal owner’s responsibility for those invited to their premises.
By way of background, the case arose from an incident that occurred in October 2009. Specifically, the M/V Iran Mazandaran was berthed at a terminal operated by Prince Rupert Grain Ltd. (“PRG”) in Prince Rupert, B.C. Due to local conditions the terminal had an automatic gangway designed and installed for general use by ships calling at PRG. Consequently, ships were not required (and generally did not use) their own gangway. People boarding or disembarking a vessel while at the terminal generally did so by use of the terminal-supplied automatic gangway.
The automatic gangway had some unique design features. It had a short step-type ladder at the ship end of the gangway. The step-type ladder was attached to the gangway by way of a gimbled joint. The gangway, upon arrival of a ship, was lowered by terminal workers to the ship’s deck. Once in place on the deck of a ship, the gangway, within limits, would freely rise and lower with the ship while remaining in contact with the deck of the ship. Additionally, the gangway would move, within limits, fore and aft with ship’s movement. Significantly, if the limits were exceeded for fore and aft movement the gangway would automatically rise off the deck of the vessel after the completion of an alarm sequence. The alarm sequence consisted of a horn sounding for 20 seconds followed by five seconds of silence. Importantly, there was no visual alarm such as a flashing light. There were, however, signs at each end of the gangway with a written warning. While there were minor differences in the wording used, the sign on the ship-side of the gangway said:
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