Located 79 miles northeast of San Francisco, the area next to California’s state capital seems to be the least likely place for a maritime port. However, West Sacramento is the site of an inland port which connects to San Francisco Bay via the Sacramento River and the 43-mile-long Sacramento Deep Water Ship Channel. Smaller than the major ports in the coast, the Port of West Sacramento nevertheless provides many maritime jobs in the area. Yet, as with the larger ports, accidents and injuries affect seamen and other maritime workers each year.
Sacramento’s Inland Port and Risks to Maritime Workers
Opened in 1963, the Port of Sacramento is situated on one of the biggest agricultural regions in California. Though its modest size limits its cargo-handling capacity to bulk, breakbulk, and project cargo, the port links Northern California to the Pacific Ocean via the 30-ft deep Sacramento Deep Water Ship Channel, the Sacramento River, and San Francisco Bay. Freighters and other vessels with a draft of 30 feet or less can sail to and from Sacramento with cargo that includes rice, fertilizer, wood products, ores and minerals, cement, and wind turbines. The major export product shipped from West Sacramento is bulk or bagged rice, a staple crop of the surrounding area.
The Port’s North Terminal is leased and operated by SSA Marine, one of the world’s largest cargo terminal operators. It employs hundreds of longshore and harbor workers to handle such operations as loading and unloading cargo ships, warehousing, off-dock yard operations, and trucking. Additionally, many Sacramento residents have jobs as seamen on ships that sail from the port as well as from other, larger maritime facilities.
Although maritime professions offer good benefits, they often exact a heavy toll on workers’ health and emotional well-being. Maritime workers accept certain trade-offs because the pay is good; a deckhand trainee just starting out can earn up to $30,000 a year, while an experienced third mate can make up to $70,000 a year. Ships’ officers have higher salaries.
The flip side is that maritime work is often dangerous no matter if it’s done aboard a ship sailing in 50-foot seas or at a busy port facility. Accidents that result in serious injuries can and do occur, on the water as well as in a landlocked port like West Sacramento’s. Worse, some of these accidents could have been avoided if employer negligence was not a contributing factor.
Resources for Injured Maritime Workers in Sacramento
Maritime workers who are injured at work are protected by federal and general maritime laws such as the Jones Act and the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. Seamen and most port workers can claim compensation benefits for their injuries and related expenses. In addition, seamen who are injured as a result of working on an unseaworthy vessel or negligence on the part of employers or coworkers can file a lawsuit under the Jones Act rules. For more information about compensation for maritime accident-related injuries, please see the articles Compensation Under the Jones Act and The Longshore Harbor Workers Compensation Act.