With close proximity to the Mississippi and the Tennessee River, Alabama provides a wide array of maritime services. Along with the second largest inland waterway system in the nation, Alabama is also home to the Port of Mobile, the state’s only deepwater port. The Port of Mobile provides a multitude of workers with maritime careers, including commercial seaman, crew members, longshoremen, harbor workers, electricians, vessel mechanics, and more. While Alabama enjoys a lucrative revenue, it wouldn’t be possible without the hard work of these workers. Yet, as with most other states with a large maritime presence, accidents and injuries are a part of the job. However, many of these accidents could have been prevented if not for employer negligence, defective equipment, and unseaworthy vessels.
Examples of Alabama Maritime Accidents
September 7, 2013 seemed like a normal day for dockworker Dustin Rogers as he was working on a bulk cargo vessel that was docked on west side of the Port of Mobile’s banks. As he was in the cargo hold of the ship, 3000-pound bundles of steel railroad tracks were being loaded. In some instance, 10 tracks were bundled together. Tragically, one of the bundles fell loose, striking Rogers in the head. He died instantly. Federal authorities are investigating the accident.
A host of other maritime accidents have happened in Alabama in 2013 alone. Just months earlier in April of 2013, three men working for the the Oil Recovery Co. were severely injured when a barge exploded. Three weeks prior, another accident occurred when one man died and another man was injured when a guard shack the workers were on was knocked into the Mobile River.
From October 2012 until September of 2013, there were already 12 inspections performed at the Port of Mobile, according to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). During this time, along with the two previously mentioned deaths, a host of other accidents and injuries occurred. Although Jimmy Lyons, the director and CEO of the Port of Alabama, argued that private companies who don’t take safety seriously don’t last long, OSHA pointed out that regardless, each employer is still responsible for upholding safety standards.
Cruise lines have also had a long history of accidents and injuries in Alabama. For instance, in April of 2013, the Carnival Triumph cruise ship was docked at the Port of Mobile while undergoing repairs when it meandered across the Mobile River and ended up crashing into another vessel docked at the river’s western bank. Per the Mobile Fire and Rescue Department, a guard shack that was close to the Triumph when it crashed was thrown into the water, injuring two people inside. One person was found and taken to the hospital, but the 2nd person, later identified as John “Buster” Johnson was not as lucky. Johnson, a BAE employee, was found dead several days later, near the Mobile shipyard.
Just a few months prior to the Triumph’s crash, a fire broke out in the vessel’s engine room while over 4,000 passengers and crew members were aboard. Consequently, they were all stuck on the Gulf of Mexico for several days without electricity, with overflowing toilets, and unsanitary conditions.
Although everyone aboard made it back to the Port of Mobile several days later, many were sick from eating the sparse food available. At least a dozen future Triumph cruises were canceled after the incident. Carnival acknowledged that the vessel has severe mechanical issues that will be taken care of before any other cruises will be scheduled. It set sail again four months later, in June of 2013.
If You’ve Been Injured in Mobile
If you’ve been injured in a maritime accident, keep in mind that there are laws that protect both injured seamen as well as injured passengers. It’s important to understand your legal rights and what you may be entitled to before settling your case. An experienced maritime attorney is recommended before signing any insurance paperwork and/or returning to work after an injury.
For more information on seamen rights when injured, refer to our article Jones Act Lawyer. For cruise line passengers who were injured, refer to our article Vacationers and Passengers on Cruise Ships.