The owner of capsized liftboat Seacor Power (IMO 8765682) has filed a suit seeking to limit their liability as a result of the April 13th incident in which all but 13 of the crew of 19 aboard the vessel either died or are presumed dead.
In a Verified Complaint in Limitation, a normal legal resource used by shipowners in situations such as this, Falcon Global Offshore II LLC, Seacor Marine LLC and Seacor Liftboats LLC filed on June 2nd in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana to limit their liability under the Limitation of Shipowners Liability Act.
This act, which has its origins back in the 19th century, allows a vessel owner to file to limit its liability for damages to the value of the vessel involved in the occurrence and any freight pending. It also allows all suits brought against the owner in a case, including those brought in state courts, to be consolidated in one federal court and for a time limit to be set for the filing of further suits.
The petitioners assert that the loss of the vessel “was not due to any fault, neglect or want of care on the part of Petitioners or the Seacor Power or anyone for whom said Petitioners may be responsible. To the contrary, the Master who was in command of the Seacor Power on April 13th 2021 was experienced, well trained and highly competent. The weather report received by the captain on the morning of April 13th 2021 forecast afternoon winds and seas well within the Seacor Power’s safe operating limits, and his decision to depart the berth and proceed with the voyage was reasonable and prudent.”
The petitioners noted that “the voyage proceeded uneventfully for several hours until the weather suddenly and drastically deteriorated to a degree that was unforeseeable and well beyond the predicted weather conditions. Within a matter of minutes, the Seacor Power encountered heavy seas and hurricane force winds. Efforts were made to jack down the legs of the Seacor Power and turn the Vessel into the winds, but before the legs could be lowered to the sea floor, the Seacor Power was overcome by forces of nature. The Seacor Power’s capsizing was a force majeure event which Petitioners could not have reasonably anticipated and for which Petitioners are not responsible.”
The petitioners listed 12 suits as having been filed in the matter and they said that they have been made aware that other individuals had retained counsel and might bring claims in the future. They say the sum total of the suits is expected to exceed the value of the Seacor Power and its freight pending.
According to documents filed by the petitioners, the Seacor Power had a scrap value following the capsize of not more than $650,000, while the total hire or pending freight for the voyage in question was $4,072,500.
“In addition, pursuant to 46 USC § 30506, the death and personal injury claims fund of $420 per gross registered ton produces an increase in the limitation fund” of $955,920. The filing submits for court approval a letter of undertaking from insurer Skuld in the sum of $5,678,420, plus interest at 6% per annum from the date of the letter of undertaking, According to the filing, this represents the total value of the Seacor Power and her appurtenances, plus freight pending, plus the supplemental personal injury fund.
Should the court approve, in the event the owners be found liable and the $5,678,420 not be sufficient to pay all losses in full, then “all claimants shall be made to share pro rata in the aforesaid sum represented by the Letter of Undertaking, saving to all such claimants any rights of priority they may have as ordered by this Honorable Court, or as provided by the aforesaid statutes, by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, including the Supplemental Admiralty Rules, the General Maritime Law, and by the rules and practices of this Honorable Court.”
2002-built, USA-flagged, 2,276 gt Seacor Power is owned by Falcon Global Offshore II LLC care of manager Seacor Liftboats LLC of Louisiana, USA. ISM manager is Seacor Marine LLC of Morgan City, Louisiana, USA. It is entered with Skuld (Business Unit Skuld Offshore) on behalf of Falcon Global Holdings LLC.