Speedboat hits water taxi

A water taxi was proceeding along a narrow channel at 25 knots.  Approaching a sharp bend in the river, the master observed a speedboat approaching from the opposite direction, on the wrong side of the channel…and on a collision course.  The water taxi turned to port.  At the last moment, the speedboat turned hard to starboard, sending it into the starboard side of the water taxi.  The water taxi was pushed onto rocks and sank, the speedboat sustained considerable damage, and both masters were badly injured.  Who was at fault?  What rules apply?  Do you know? 

Due to conflicting reports and a lack of witnesses, it was impossible to determine whether either vessel was actually on the wrong side of the channel.  Under Rule 9 (Narrow Channels), you must keep to the starboard side of a narrow channel.  However, the master of the water taxi, who altered course to port, said that was his only option to avoid colliding with the speedboat.  Rule 2 (Responsibility) states that “due regard shall be had to all dangers of…collision…which may make a departure from these rules necessary to avoid immediate danger”.  The master of the water taxi was not charged.  The master of the speedboat was found to have handled the vessel under the influence of alcohol and was convicted under the Traffic Act.  What would you have done?

Source: Marine Incidents Annual Report 1998, Queensland Transport

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