Maine Maritime Museum seeks to avoid prosecution for capsizing schooner

A month after its historic fishing schooner capsized and dumped 18 people in the Kennebec River, the Maine Maritime Museum expects to be prosecuted for the incident and has already taken legal action to self-isolate.

The 73-foot-long Mary E rolled over on July 30 around 5:30 p.m. on a routine public cruise near the Doubling Point Lighthouse in Arrowsic. All 15 passengers and three crew members were rescued and two people were treated at Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick. Authorities have yet to reveal the cause of the crash and the winds were moderate at the time.

On August 20, the Museum of Bath – which purchased the 115-year-old ship in 2017 – filed a lawsuit with the U.S. District Court in Portland to limit the museum’s liability for potential lawsuits.

Although none have been filed, according to the complaint, the museum “believes that claims will be made for bodily injury, pain and suffering and other damages” and that the claims will exceed the value of the Mary E.

An American maritime law of 1851 limits the total liability of shipowners in the event of an accident to the value of the ship after the accident. Shipowners often proactively use the law to protect themselves from claims that may arise later.

In the court file, the museum also said it was not responsible for “loss, damage, injury and destruction” in the capsizing, as it “exercised due diligence to restore the vessel in question. of seaworthiness and safe “.

Calls for more information to a lawyer representing the Maine Maritime Museum were not immediately referred.

The Maine Maritime Museum purchased the Mary E for $ 140,000 and an appraisal submitted to the court last week estimated the current value at $ 150,000. The ship “suffered damage” in the overturn, according to the documents, but was righted and taken to the Derecktor Robinhood shipyard in Georgetown on August 2.

The Mary E is a two masted clipper schooner built in Bath and the oldest fishing schooner built in Maine that still exists. After purchasing the ship, the museum embarked on a year-long restoration project, replacing the ship’s frames, reshaping the hull, overhauling the deck, and making other improvements.

The Shipowners’ Limitation of Liability Act has been used to defend against claims in many high-profile shipping accidents, ranging from the 2018 duck accident that killed 17 people in Missouri to the sinking of the RMS Titanic. After this 1912 disaster, owner White Star Lines was able to limit his financial liability to $ 92,000 – the value of the 14 lifeboats that survived.

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