Located in Riviera Beach, the Port of Palm Beach is Florida’s fourth busiest container port. It is primarily a container/general cargo and export port, although in 2010 the Celebration Cruise line began operating there with the MS Bahamas Celebration. Though the port is a powerhouse for the Palm Beach County economy and $7 billion worth of commodities pass through it every year, many maritime workers are injured while on the job. Tragically, a significant number of these accidents were the result of negligence or took place on unseaworthy vessels.
Port of Palm Beach Maritime Accidents
Maritime Worker Dies Trapped in a Barge: On May 23, 2013, a 56-year-old marine worker was found dead inside a barge docked at the Port of Palm Beach after becoming trapped while doing routine maintenance. Per local media reports, Riviera Beach police said Russell Rivenburg, a resident of Loxahatchee, was discovered face down deep inside the hull of the barge in the port’s Slip Three. First responders declared Rivenburg, an employee of Shore Line Construction, dead at the scene. According to an official spokesperson for the Port, Rivenburg “went into the hull of a ship to do maintenance or check on something and was unable to get out.” The initial fire-rescue call was for a possible chemical accident on the barge, but no chemicals were involved and there was no threat of exposure to nearby residents.
Longshore Worker and Seaman Injuries
The Port of Palm Beach is a bustling facility that employs, directly or indirectly, 2,100 workers. It has three slips, four wharves, and two roll-on, roll-off (RO-RO) ramps that serve cargo and container vessels. There is also a passenger terminal which handles 250,000 passengers a year. On an average 12-month period, 2,000 ships transit through the port, moving 120,000 containers and several million tons of cargo of all types.
Behind the scenes, longshore, harbor workers and seamen must perform physically demanding jobs in an environment full of dangers. They must operate heavy machinery or work around containers and bulky cargo crates. Ships’ decks are often crammed with tools, lifeboats, cranes, winches, mooring lines and other objects which are necessary but also potentially dangerous. As a result, maritime workers at the Port of Palm Beach or on ships that sail from there are often involved in accidents that the public never hears about.
Typical accidents that occur in ports include:
- Container crashes
- Empty container handler accidents
- Drowning or near-drowning accidents
- Ship fires
- Gantry crane accidents
- Mobile harbor crane accidents
- Slip and falls
- Forklift accidents
- Truck and cargo vehicle accidents
- Lifeboat drill accidents
Maritime Accident Compensation
Maritime workers at the Port of Palm Beach usually fall into two separate groups. Employees who work on the docks, wharves, terminals and drive the trucks carrying containers to or from the port are longshore and harbor workers. Ship’s crews, captains, and other officers are seamen. Admiralty law and two specific federal laws govern workers’ compensation for these two groups. The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act covers the port workers, while the Merchant Marine Act, which is better known as the Jones Act, covers the seamen.
Though the specifics between the Jones and Longshore Acts have necessary differences in detail, they basically grant maritime workers legal rights to get compensation for work-related injuries or diseases when they’re caused by their employers’ neglect or issues with seaworthiness. The specific processes of filing compensation claims also differ, but they are time-sensitive, require much preparation, and deal with complex issues that maritime workers alone can’t handle. If you’re a maritime worker at the Port of Palm Beach who was injured on the job, an attorney with experience in Jones or Longshore Act law is an important asset if your accident was the result of negligence by your employer.