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TAKE THE FIFTH



UPDATE: NAUTICAL LOG received a photograph of what is alleged to be the Caribbean Sea pushing an empty barge. As you can see in this condition it is necessary for whomever is piloting the tow to be in the upper pilothouse so as to see ahead. Even in that position the view forward is severely limited once other vessels get close to the tow due to the length of the barge. It is therefore essential that a lookout be kept from forward on the barge so that the pilot is kept informed. In fact both the International and Inland Navigation Rules state this in Rule 4 and Rule 5 and the wording is the same in both sets of Rules. Since the Inland Rules applied in this incident they state:

Rule 4 Application "Rules in this subpart apply in any condition of visibility."

Rule 5 Look-out "Every vessel shall at all times maintain a proper look-out by sight and hearing as well as by all available means appropriate in the prevailing circumstances and conditions so as to make a full appraisal of the situation and of the risk of collision"


In the recent NAUTICAL LOG series about towing we addressed most but not all of the issues in Assistance Towing and the responsibilities of First Responders. One point we did not not address and indeed should have is the right under Constitutional Law to 'keep your mouth shut' which we had suggested you do. It may cast some suspicion on you as a possible guilty party but it is most likely the wise course and when one gets 'lawyered-up' no doubt your lawyer will be pleased. The Constitutional Right is that of the Fifth Amendment which states in part:

"No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury,"

the Amendment then continues on and addresses conditions in time of War and public danger.

Last week there was a tragic accident in Philadelphia,PA in which a tourist 'duck boat' and an empty barge and tug were in collision. According to statements the 'duck boat' had broken down and was drifting when it was struck by the pushed barge. Two tourists drowned when the 37 persons in the 'duck boat' were dumped into the water. Over the weekend National Transport Safety Bureau (NTSB) interviews were conducted. The crew of the 'duck boat' stated that they radioed the tugboat pushing the barge ahead and got no response. The worker in the tug Caribbean Sea invoked his Fifth Amendment Right and refused to be interviewed about the fatal crash.

The tug crew is reported to consist of an master, mate, engineer and two deck hands, the NTSB said that the unidentified mate "exercised his Fifth Amendment rights and refused to meet with investigators" over the weekend. Other vessels in the area reported to the NTSB that they had heard the radio calls from the 'duck boat' to the tug. This would seem to confirm that the 'duck boat' did indeed transmit those calls. Other than the tug's mate the company itself was cooperating fully with the probe and had provided legal counsel to all five employees involved. The NTSB is ongoing so NAUTICAL LOG has no further comment on the incident, however it is wise to pay attention to such incidents legal responses and learn from them. If in doubt 'take the Fifth' and then follow the guidance of legal counsel.

Good Watch.

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