Judge suspends captain's credential for incident with rowers

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The following is the text of a news release from the U.S. Coast Guard:

(PORTLAND, Ore.) — An administrative law judge suspended the merchant mariner credential of the master of the Portland Spirit on Monday, following an investigation by members of the Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Portland into an incident that occurred on the Willamette River on Oct. 29.

The Honorable George Jordan, Coast Guard administrative law judge for this case, found in favor of the allegations in the Coast Guard’s complaint against Lowell Gillespie Jr., and ordered Gillespie’s credentials to be suspended for three months.

“We are pleased with the judge’s decision,” said Capt. Tom Griffitts, commanding officer, Marine Safety Unit Portland. “One of the Coast Guard’s primary missions is to ensure waterway safety; safe navigation and collision avoidance are primary concerns. All operators share the responsibility to prevent vessel collisions.”

Gillespie, as part of the proceedings, filed an uncontested answer to the court and admitted his actions of negligence in the matter.

The complaint stated the respondent was negligent while serving as master of Portland Spirit in that he failed to take positive action to avoid a collision with two recreational rowers. As per navigation rules, the master had the responsibility to not only avoid a collision but also to alter the course or speed of Portland Spirit in order to not impede the passage or safe passage of the rowers.

The incident in question occurred during the Portland Fall Classic event when rowing teams raced rowing shells on the Willamette River. During the event, Portland Spirit maneuvered through the race route and caused teams in two rowing shells to alter their course to avoid a collision with Portland Spirit.

Click here to read about an incident involving Portland Spirit in 2015.

By Professional Mariner Staff