Casualty consequences… Is justice really blind?

“Justice is blind” has been with us since grade school but I submit to you that the two articles on pages 30 and 34 of the Oct/Nov issue may contradict the old adage.
The first relates to the “Duck” accident in Philadelphia where Mate Matthew R. Devlin plead guilty to misconduct under the Seaman’s Manslaughter Statue for the unfortunate death of the “Duck” passengers.
The U.S. Attorney’s office in Philadelphia said that Mr. Devlin will likely serve over three years in prison. Mr. Devlin’s coast guard license will be permanently revoked.
To summarize the infraction, Mr. Devlin “for an extended period of time prior to the collision was distracted by his use of cell phone and laptop computer to attend to personal matters” and “did not maintain a proper lookout or comply with other essential rules of seamanship”.
It was noted that he was piloting from the lower wheelhouse where he had reduced visibility.
This case was probed by the USCG Investigative Service and the NTSB.
The second case is the also unfortunate fatal accident where the USCG CG33118 under the command of coxswain Petty Officer Paul Ramos ran into a pleasure craft from astern. Rather than a civil trial, the Petty Officer was court-martialed and found guilty of “dereliction of duty” and will serve three months in the brig and be demoted. “Records indicate that the CG33118 crewmembers used their cellular phones for voice calls and text messaging while underway, distracting them from effectively performing their duties as lookouts”.
Investigation also found that the operator’s visibility was restricted as in the previous case.
The investigation was also conducted by the USCG and NTSB.
All in all, the cases are tragic and similar. What factors are missing in these reports that would make the punishments meted out to these two mariners so dissimilar? One of these prison terms is wrong.
Xavier McGeady
By Professional Mariner Staff