The following is the text of a press release issued by the U.S. Coast Guard:
(ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla.) – A near collision between a fishing vessel and a container ship in the St. Johns River Thursday is prompting the Coast Guard to issue a stern reminder to boaters of the importance of remaining vigilant at all times.
Coast Guardsmen at Sector Jacksonville in Atlantic Beach watched as a 590-foot container ship sounded five emergency horn blasts and came dangerously close to an 85-foot fishing vessel in the St. Johns River shipping channel in front of Sector Jacksonville Jan. 17, 2013.
The captain of the container ship and watchstanders at Sector Jacksonville had attempted to hail the captain of the commercial fishing vessel multiple times over VHF-FM marine radio, but received no response. No one was able to get his attention until a boatcrew from Station Mayport pulled alongside the fishing vessel and instructed the two crewmembers who were working near the stern of the vessel to get the captain’s attention and tell him to move the fishing vessel out of the container ship’s path.
The container ship and the fishing vessel came within 200 yards of each other, narrowly avoiding a collision.
“Station Mayport acted immediately and was on scene within minutes, preventing a serious incident” said Lt. Cmdr. Patrick Sullivan, Sector Jacksonville command center supervisor. “Cool under the pressure of an advancing container ship, the boatcrew directed the fishing vessel out of harm's way, allowing safe passage.”
The Coast Guard is investigating the incident.
The person found to be at fault could face a civil penalty of up to $30,000 for operating a vessel in a negligent manner or interfering with the safe operation of a vessel, so as to endanger life, limb or property.
“We will not tolerate negligent maritime operations, which needlessly put lives at risk,” said Capt. Tom Allan, Sector Jacksonville commander. “Remaining vigilant and aware of your surroundings while operating a boat is more than just a lawful duty; it’s a matter of life and death. I don’t ever want to have to tell someone’s family their loved one passed away because someone just wasn’t paying attention.”