Situated on Florida’s east coast approximately 25 miles to the north of Jacksonville, Fernandina Beach is an important maritime link to the Caribbean and several South American countries. The nearby Port of Fernandina is primarily used to ship various products, including steel exports, auto parts, machinery, food, beverages, paper pulp, and chemicals. This connection to Colombia, Haiti, Dominican Republic, and other neighboring countries provides lucrative jobs to longshore workers and seamen. However, negligence by employers and unseaworthy vessels cause many unnecessary occupational accidents, resulting in serious injuries and even death to maritime workers.
The Port of Fernandina and Maritime Injuries
The port is a deepwater harbor located on Amelia Island, next to the city of Fernandina Beach. Although it is smaller than nearby Jacksonville’s Jaxport, the Port of Fernandina a 1,200-ft. long berth, three access ramps, 11 acres for on-site outside storage, 32 refrigeration plugs for reefer containers, three in-port warehouses and two off-port warehouses. In addition, there are two 35-ton container cranes, three 35-ton rubber-tired gantries (RTGs), and one 85-short ton heavy lift crane. Moreover, the Port of Fernandina has parking space for trucks on one side of the main terminal.
In this busy environment, longshore workers and seamen are often in situations where the risk factor for accidents is high. Maritime employees accept some risks in exchange for good salaries, but they have the right to expect that their employers will provide a safe and healthy workplace. Nevertheless, some employers place profit above every other consideration, including their workers’ safety. For instance, instead of investing money on a new container crane, the owners may ask their mechanics to do a temporary repair job on an aging one. This type of stopgap solution may be less expensive in the short term. Yet, if the crane’s mechanisms give out in the middle of a lift and it collapses, the operator and other workers will be seriously injured or killed.
Negligence by employers can also make working on ships that sail from the Port of Fernandina unnecessarily dangerous. If a vessel’s owner allows a ship’s condition to deteriorate over time by not repairing leaky fuel lines or securing loose ladder wells, the crew is forced to work in an unseaworthy vessel. The leaky fuel lines can cause a fire aboard, and a seaman can fall from a loose ladder and suffer serious injuries, including traumatic brain injuries, disfigurement, broken bones, and more.
Seaman Rights Under Maritime Law
If you’ve been injured while on the job, it’s important to remember that along with maintenance and cure, you also may entitled to benefits under general maritime and the Jones Act if your injuries are result of negligence from another party. It’s recommended to never sign any documentation before consulting with an experienced San Fernandina maritime attorney who can help you understand what you’re legal rights are and what you may be entitled to.
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