Located on the southeastern coast of the U.S., Georgia is home to four seaports owned and operated by the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA). The Port of Savannah and the Port of Brunswick are the GPA’s most important facilities since they are deepwater ports. These two ports, as well as two inland ports which are connected via rivers to the Gulf of Mexico, are an important part of the state’s economy. However, although maritime trade has positive impacts in Georgia’ s finances, many seamen and longshore workers are needlessly injured on the job due to unsafe working conditions, unseaworthy vessels, and neglect on the part of their employers.
Risky Professions: Maritime Jobs, Accidents and Injuries
According to the Georgia Ports Authority, the state’s maritime facilities create 352,146 full and part time jobs, which account for 8.3% of Georgia’s employment rolls. The ports, especially the two deepwater ones in Savannah and Brunswick, also help drive the economy of every county in Georgia, even those far from the coast. Per the GPA, the four ports it runs account for $32.4 billion in the state’s GDP, which amounts to 7.8% of Georgia’s total GDP.
Although the benefits of maritime trade to the state’s economy are significant, they don’t come without cost to seamen or longshore workers. Working at a port or on a maritime vessel is often physically exhausting and hazardous. Maritime employees must handle heavy objects or work around machines that can cause serious injuries if they are not operated or maintained properly.
Port facilities and maritime vessels are particularly dangerous because of all the risk factors involved. For example, an empty 20-foot shipping container weighs 4,700 lbs and can seriously injure or kill a maritime worker if it is not secured properly.
Some of the accidents that cause injuries among maritime workers in ports or aboard vessels include:
- Exposure to Benzene or other hazardous toxic agents
- Slips, trips, and falls
- Man overboard
- Crane collapses
- Barge accidents
- Shipboard fires
- Forklift accidents
- Lifeboat drill accidents
- Container accidents
- Warehouse/terminal fires
- Cruise ship accidents
- Ladder and gangway accidents
- Tugboat accidents
Maritime-related injuries are inherently serious, life-threatening, and often deadly. The work setting and natural environment can be a dangerous mix even in the best of circumstances, but when negligence by employers or a vessel’s seaworthiness is compromised, the results can be devastating.
These are some of the most common occupational injuries suffered by Georgia maritime workers:
- Back and neck injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Dental trauma
- Puncture wounds
Maritime Workers Rights and Compensation
Due to the dangerous nature of work in ports like Savannah, on vessels that sail on navigable waters, or on offshore facilities, laws such as the Jones Act and the Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Act exist to protect maritime workers’ rights. Though each law has unique processes, they allow seamen and longshore workers in Georgia to get compensation for work-related injuries caused by the negligence of their employers or unsafe working conditions ashore or afloat. Because admiralty law cases are complex and need to be resolved before the statute of limitations expire, an experienced maritime lawyer is needed to help injured maritime workers get compensation.