Vessels are the most important part of the maritime work. Without them, the maritime industry would not exist. Vessels come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from tugboats to large tankers. Despite the differences in size, however, each vessel poses risks to seamen, leading to accidents and injuries, especially if the ship isn’t in safe, working condition.
Charter boats account for hundreds of maritime accidents each year. While some of these accidents are due to unforeseen reasons that couldn’t be prevented, many charter boats happen due to inadequate training, leading to operator error and neglect. In other instances, broken and unsafe equipment aboard the boat causes serious accidents, leading to life-threatening injuries.
Commercial diving is an inherently dangerous profession, and maritime workers face risks in both offshore and inshore waters. Not only are commercial divers at risk for injuries due to malfunctioning equipment, propeller cuts, and welding burns, but since these types of accidents are so severe, divers face a myriad of life-threatening consequences, including:
- Gas Poisoning
- Hypothermia, and more
Though crab fishing is a lucrative business, it has a well-earned reputation as one of the deadliest maritime jobs. Most crab fishermen work in remote and dangerous regions, including the waters off the coast of Alaska. While crab boat crews accept certain dangers as part of the job, many are injured aboard their vessels due to negligent owners who scrimp on maintenance and equipment upgrades for the sake of profit.
Dredgers are vessels used to gather sediment or other materials to make waterways more navigable and to harvest oysters and other shellfish. Many dredgers are customized and use heavy machinery, vacuum tubes, and cutting tools that are useful and potentially dangerous. Crane-type dredgers are especially hazardous; if one or more of a crane’s components fail or break, a dropped load or falling piece of equipment can cause crushing injuries, amputations, or death to a member of the crew. Dredger accidents also cause major property damage.
Ferries are vessels used to carry passengers and/or vehicles across rivers and large bodies of water on regularly-scheduled round trips. Ranging in size from small water taxi boats to large ships that can carry several hundred passengers and a load of cars and other vehicles, ferries are useful in coastal communities and island chains. However, ferry accidents occur frequently in such cities as New York, and disasters involving vessels that are unseaworthy or commanded by inept captains have claimed thousands of lives in maritime accidents.
Lifeboat drills are mandatory training exercises for all seamen aboard any type of working or passenger vessel. These drills must be carried out before a ship leaves port on a major body of water and are intended to instruct crew members and passengers how to carry out an evacuation of the ship in case of an emergency.
However, lifeboat drills injure or kill many seamen, especially in accidents that occur during rehearsals called abandon ship exercises which involve lowering fully-loaded lifeboats to the water. Equipment failure, design flaws in the lifeboats, sloppy training procedures, and human error are the most common causes of avoidable lifeboat drill accidents.
Seiner boats are widely used in commercial fishing fleets, especially those based in Alaska and Washington State. They use large weighted dragnets called seine nets to catch large numbers of fish. Seiner boats often go out to sea for months at a time, and a seaman can earn $10,000 or more a month if the fishing trip is successful and yields large catches.
Since seiner boats are cramped, loaded with heavy equipment, and usually operate in areas where the weather and sea states are rough, some accidents are unavoidable. Many times, though, commercial fishermen are injured or killed in unnecessary accidents caused by negligent vessel owners, poor management decisions, and pushing workers to pull in too many hours on the job without proper rest.
The most common seiner boat injuries include:
- Head injuries
- Spinal cord injuries from falls
- Crushed limbs
- Broken bones
- Lacerations and scarring
- Loss of limbs
Tankers are among the most dangerous vessels to work on due to their highly flammable cargo. Most tankers transport hydrocarbons such as liquid natural gas, liquified petroleum gas, and petroleum oil. Other tankers carry chemicals, molasses and fresh water. These cargoes are often hazardous and can cause serious injuries to a ship’s crew when an onboard accident occurs. The risk of incurring burn injuries or inhaling toxic fumes is exceedingly high, and many tanker accident victims are disabled or killed by:
- Smoke inhalation
- Mechanical asphyxiation
- Electrical shocks
- Drownings and near drownings
Although tugboats are small in comparison to most vessels, accidents and injuries frequently occur. Tugboats are responsible for a myriad of functions, including moving large vessels and assisting broken ships in emergencies. In addition, tugboats are loaded with equipment to help perform successfully.
Common reasons for tugboat injuries include:
- Mechanical malfunctions and breakdowns
- Collisions with other vessels
- Slippery surfaces and other hazards on-board
Most cruise passengers enjoy hassle-free vacations on ocean going liners to exotic ports of call, but many travelers don’t get to experience idyllic sea voyages. Of the 17 million passengers that sail from North America each year, thousands of people get sick, are victimized by criminals, suffer injuries from accidents, or die aboard cruise ships. Some of these unfortunate events are unforeseeable or even self-inflicted in cases where someone deliberately jumps overboard.
Often, however, a vacation at sea can turn sour due to food poisoning, viral infections caused by a crew’s poor sanitation procedures, and crimes committed by other passengers or ship’s personnel. In many cases, these incidents are caused by the negligence of the cruise companies and skimping on proper maintenance, sanitary preparation, and training of ship’s personnel.
Legal Information About Maritime Vessel Accidents and Injuries
Ships sail and operate in an environment that can be treacherous and inhospitable at times. Their design, construction, engines, equipment, and function makes maritime vessels inherently dangerous. Seamen understand the nature of their profession and accept many risks as part of their job. If you’re injured as a result of an employer’s negligence, general admiralty law and the Jones Act exist to protect you. Compensation for lost wages, the costs of daily living, and medical expenses caused by your job-related injuries may be available for you.
For more complete information about maritime law, your legal rights, and what options are open to you, you are invited to fill out our form for a free Maritime Injury information.