Located on Tampa Bay close to the Gulf of Mexico, Tampa is one of the busiest maritime cities in Florida. Its Port of Tampa Bay is the largest in Florida and links the city with major container ship ports in Asia, Latin America, and other parts of the world. Tampa is also a popular departure port for cruise ships. Three cruise lines home-port four ships in Port of Tampa Bay. Commercial fishing vessels also sail out to the Gulf of Mexico from Tampa. Nearby Port Manatee is also an important maritime facility for shipping in the Gulf.
However, maritime jobs are not glamorous or easy. Many seamen and longshore workers based at the Port of Tampa Bay and other ports in the area are injured on the job every year, often suffering severe or fatal injuries and work-related illnesses caused by negligent employers.
Tampa Area Maritime-Related Accidents
On May 14, 2012, a longshore worker was killed in an industrial accident in Port Manatee, a deepwater port near Tampa. 48-year-old Robert Dixon was unloading bananas from a freight ship when he was trapped beneath a two-and-a-half ton crane basket. First responders pronounced Dixon dead at the scene.
On October 24, 2012, Hercules Gilmore, a 56-year-old stevedore employed at Port of Tampa Bay, was killed aboard a cargo ship when steel pipes broke loose from a crane and fell on Gilmore and three co-workers. The longshore workers had just placed the pipes in a bundle for a crane to lift them out of the ship’s hold when a strap broke in mid-lift. The heavy pipes fell on the workers, killing Gilmore and injuring one of the three other stevedores.
On April 10, 2013, seven workers were hospitalized after being exposed to hydrogen sulfide fumes while cleaning a sewer pipe in the Port of Tampa Bay’s wastewater treatment plant. One, 33-year-old Jesus Jimenez, died at Tampa General Hospital after inhaling the toxic gas in a sewer pipe. Six firefighters were also overcome by the fumes at the Howard F. Curren Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant and treated at the hospital, but were released shortly thereafter.
Common Maritime Accidents and Injuries
Seamen and other maritime workers take on dangerous jobs to earn a living, including those who work on luxurious cruise ships. Vessels of all types are used in a natural environment that can often be treacherous in bad weather or heavy seas. In addition, seamen’s working areas are cramped, full of gear and heavy machinery, while decks and ladders can get slick or unstable if they’re not properly cleaned and maintained.
The most common maritime accidents and injuries include:
- Slip and falls
- Falls from unsecure ship’s ladders
- Accidents involving cranes and winches
- Lifeboat drill accidents
- Shipboard fires
- Explosions at sea
- Exposure to toxic substances
- Exposure to asbestos in older vessels
- Sprains and strains
- Man overboard accidents
- Seine-net injuries
- Food poisoning caused by noroviruses
Maritime workers have the legal right to compensation for on-the-job injuries under several laws. Seamen can sue their employer under the Jones Act and general admiralty law if their injuries were the result of negligent acts or if the vessel was not seaworthy. Longshore workers employed at a maritime facility are eligible for compensation under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. These laws give maritime workers certain rights that most workers do not have, but maritime cases are complex and can take years to resolve.