Although New Hampshire has a shoreline of only 18 miles long, the state boasts a long tradition of maritime work. Even with only one seaport, the Port of Portsmouth provides an array of maritime services including a mixed-use facility serves container freight as well as local fishing vessels, recreational boats, and passenger cruise ships. Operated by New Hampshire’s Division of Ports and Harbors (DPH), the Port of Portsmouth creates many maritime jobs for seamen and port workers, including dockworkers. However, though these jobs are lucrative, work-related accidents are a present danger. Additionally, many maritime accidents are the result of employers’ negligence.
New Hampshire’s Maritime Industry Accidents
Located at the mouth of the Pistacagua River, the Port of Portsmouth is an ice-free maritime facility capable of operating year round. It has a deep draft harbor, which can accommodate ships with a maximum 10.7-meter draft. Portsmouth is the site of the Market Street Terminal, the only public access general cargo facility on the Pistacagua River. It has two piers, one for deep draft ships that is 10.7-meters deep, and another for shallow-draft vessels that is 6.7 meters deep.
The port handles bulk, break-bulk, project, and containerized cargoes. DPH facilities on site include 4.6 thousand square feet of warehouse space, as well as railroad links connecting the Port of Portsmouth to the rest of New Hampshire. A network of roads also links the port to various state and federal roads, including U.S. 1, Interstate Highway 95, and State Road 103. The port also has facilities for cruise ships, recreational boats, sightseeing vessels, and fishing boats.
The Port of Portsmouth employs 987 maritime workers and helps generate over $252 million in value-added income. Commerce at the port also contributes $22.8 million in local and state taxes to New Hampshire’s treasury. In 2011, the Port of Portsmouth loaded or unloaded 3.1 million tons of cargo in various terminals along the Pistacagua River.
Maritime workers at the Port of Portsmouth are well paid but have some of the most dangerous jobs in the nation. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the death rate of commercial anglers in the years between 2000 and 2010 was 124 deaths per 100,000 workers. Other branches of the maritime profession are almost as dangerous. Most maritime jobs require strenuous physical labor and work days can sometimes last 18 hours or more. Seamen are at the mercy of weather and sea conditions, as well as the state of their vessels. Longshore workers must work around cranes loaded with heavy containers or cargo crates, and people and vehicles are constantly on the move around wharves, docked ships, shipping and passenger terminals, and warehouses.
On April 1, 2013, a tanker carrying a load of tallow oil broke free from the pier at Portsmouth Harbor. The states of Maine and New Hampshire allege that the MV Harbour Feature’s crew had negligently tended the ship’s lines, allowing the 473-foot ship tanker to be pulled upriver by a strong tidal current. Although the crew immediately dropped anchor, the Harbour Feature collided with the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge. The impact caused severe damage that closed the bridge for a period and cost $2,474,250 to repair. The ship also suffered a gash in its hull but remained afloat and made it back to port. Fortunately, no one was injured, but the crew of the ship was charged with negligence and failing to secure the tanker.
New Hampshire Maritime Accident Compensation
Maritime workers who are injured in on-the-job accidents have several types of compensation and special rights. General admiralty law allows seamen to receive maintenance and cure payments to cover expenses while they’re being treated for injuries. The Jones Act covers seamen and allows them to sue their employers in cases where negligence was a causal factor in the accident where the injuries occurred.
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) covers maritime workers who don’t qualify for Jones Act compensation. The LHWCA provides injured seamen with compensatory payment equaling two-thirds of their average weekly wages. The LHWCA also includes various disability awards depending on the severity of the injury-related condition, compensation for specific body parts, and death benefits to surviving spouses, children, and other qualifying dependents.
Because filing compensation claims for maritime injuries is complicated and is governed by a statute of limitations, injured workers need the services of a maritime attorney experienced with admiralty law, the Jones Act, LHWCA, and personal injury cases. Maritime employers’ insurance companies are only interested in paying as little as possible to workers injured on the job, and they hire lawyers to achieve their goals.
If You’ve Been Injured
If you’ve been injured in a New Hampshire maritime accident caused by a negligent employer, file an accident report, seek medical assistance as soon as possible, and focus on recovering from your injury. Before hiring a maritime attorney, do not sign any documents given to you by your employer’s insurer. Don’t surrender your legal rights to get full compensation for your injuries, and don’t be intimidated into signing any document that will limit your benefits.