There are only so many ways to board or disembark from a ship, and oftentimes transiting gangways can pose a serious risk of injury or death if they are not properly maintained and supervised by the crew. Crewmembers should be trained in the use of gangways and expected to report defects or hazards. Navigating a gangway can be incredibly dangerous: the height of a gangway can be several feet above the ground or water, often at a steep incline and decline; Sea spray, rain, and spilled cargo create slippery conditions on the gangway making it cumbersome to cross if one is not an experienced seafarer. Gangways can become overcrowded if not monitored and collapse if not adequately supported. People lacking the proper footwear to traverse a gangway can misstep and fall to the ground or water, causing a substantial risk of injury or death.
Next, gangways may not be adequately maintained, leading to an unstable structure and unsafe handrails. Inadequate maintenance could result in the collapse of the gangway itself or failure from the gangway due to a faulty handrail. A gangway could malfunction due to equipment failures, such as a broken winch or cable. A lack of safety equipment, such as non-slip surfaces, proper lighting, and inaccessibility to lifejackets, can contribute to the unnecessary danger of traversing the gangway. Many vessels keep their life jackets in designated safety areas instead of storing them in readily accessible locations near the gangway. If someone goes overboard, they may have to tread water until help arrives.
Lastly, the vessel’s movements must be coordinated perfectly with the gangways’ movements to board and disembark safely. Failure to safely align the gangway can cause it to sway and shift, causing an increased risk of falls and other accidents. It is critically important to follow proper safety procedures when traversing a gangway. If injured on a gangway, whether a passenger or crewmember, it is critical to consult a maritime attorney as soon as possible because there are strict time limits to file a maritime claim.