Articles Posted in Maritime Issues

Due to a variety of television programs, films and books devoted to the perils of commercial fishing and oil production, the American public is gaining a better and better understanding of just how dangerous maritime work tends to be. Tragically, not all offshore accidents result only in maritime injury and property damage. A staggering number of American maritime workers are killed on the job each year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released data that helps to define the scope of this tragedy. The CDC has determined that offshore maritime workers face a risk of being killed on the job that is seven times higher than the national worker fatality average. This makes offshore maritime work the most deadly profession an American can opt to pursue.

Some maritime accidents, like the Deepwater Horizon explosion that rocked the coast of Louisiana in 2010, are highly publicized. Others do not generate as much media attention but are no less tragic. Eleven workers died in the Deepwater Horizon explosion, but 128 total offshore workers were killed on the job between 2003 and 2010 alone.

Six fishermen are safe after their vessel began taking on water and sank approximately two miles off the coast of Kahoolawe, Maui, Monday.

Coast Guard Sector Honolulu watchstanders received a radio call from the captain of the 43-foot charter fishing vessel Piper at 12 p.m. The captain reported the vessel was sinking and passengers were putting on lifejackets. The six people aboard the Piper abandoned ship into a life raft.

A crew aboard a 45-foot Response Boat-Medium from Coast Guard Station Maui was launched. Watchstanders issued an Urgent Marine Information Broadcast over VHF marine radio channel 16 to notify other vessels in the area of the emergency and the need for immediate assistance. The crew aboard the recreational vessel Misti III responded and rescued the passengers and crew. The Misti III transported the six survivors to Ma’alaea Harbor where emergency medical services met them. No serious injuries were reported.

A 28-year-old man was medevaced after sustaining about a 20-foot fall aboard a tanker in the fairway anchorage off Sabine, off the coast of Texas, Saturday afternoon.

The captain of the 800-foot Cyprus flagged tanker, Nordmark, radioed watchstanders at U.S. Coast Guard Sector Houston-Galveston for assistance, reporting that a crewmember had sustained an injury to his back after falling in the engineering space.

The aircrew hoisted the man from the tanker and transported him to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Beaumont for medical care.

A fish processing vessel that went hard aground on Kodiak Island was struck by other problems earlier this year, including a diesel spill and two ammonia leaks.

The 169-foot Pacific Producer grounded in 9-foot tides early Friday while traveling through a narrow passage between Kodiak and Spruce islands. The vessel had just left the city of Kodiak two hours earlier when the mishap occurred in relatively calm seas, according to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.

“It hit the beach fairly hard,” said Steve Russell, the DEC’s state on-scene coordinator.

When Bret A. Simpson heard the hulking old barge Davy Crockett was for sale several years ago, “he saw the steel and he saw dollar signs,” said assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Oesterle.

Simpson, of Ellensburg, figured he could scrap the 400-foot former Navy ship and walk off with a tidy sum.

“He probably regrets that decision,” Oesterle said. Because in the midst of his ragtag scrapping operation, the Davy Crockett began spilling oil into the Columbia River near Camas, Washington.

On Friday, March 15, a 35-year-old crewman of the 58-foot fishing vessel Stella fell overboard into Shelikof Strait, Alaska.

The crewman spent 25 minutes in the 37.6 degree water without a survival suit before he was brought back aboard by his fellow crewmen. Weather at the time of the incident was reportedly 20 mph winds from the southwest with seas to 4-feet and freezing spray.

After the crewman was brought back aboard, a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Air Station Kodiak medevaced the crewman who was exhibiting symptoms of hypothermia. The man was safely hoisted by the Coast Guard helicopter crew and delivered to emergency medical personnel at Air Station Kodiak for further transport to Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center.

The 47-foot tug Shanon E. Settoon was pushing a 154-foot oil barge when it allided with a submerged pipeline 6 p.m., Tuesday. The Coast Guard has responded to the scene near Bayou Perot 30 miles south of New Orleans.

A worker at a local marina reported that the tug exploded shortly after it struck the pipeline. Its remnants and the barge are still on the water and fully engulfed by flames. Coast Guard officials say the barge was carrying an estimated 2215 barrels of light crude oil, while the tow had about 1000 gallons of diesel fuel when the fire started. The Coast Guard says the plan right now is to allow the fire to burn itself out, because the surrounding waters are too shallow to allow firefighting vessels to get close to it.

All crewmembers were able to exit the tug, but the captain reportedly suffered severe burns and was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. Three other crew members were on the boat as well and are accounted for, and at least one of them received minor injuries.

The Coast Guard is supervising the salvage and pollution response operations of a sunken towing vessel in the Mississippi River at Mile Marker 161.5 near New Orleans. The cause of the sinking is still under investigation.

Coast Guard Sector New Orleans watchstanders received a report around 2 a.m. Thursday that the 56-foot towing vessel Justice, owned by River Ventures LLC, had begun taking on water and sank around midnight. Three people aboard the tow vessel were able to get off before it sank.

The Coast Guard responded to the scene at approximately 6 a.m. to oversee pollution response operations. Boom was deployed and the Coast Guard is continuing to monitor the situation to identify shoreline impacts. The vessel was carrying 5336 gallons of diesel fuel and 100 gallons of lube oil when it sank. The actual amount of fuel discharged into the Mississippi River is unknown at this time; however, current estimates indicate the full amount of fuel and oil carried aboard the vessel has not released into the water. Divers were able to plug the fuel vents Thursday. The Lower Mississippi River Waterworks Network is currently monitoring water intakes in the area, but there have been no impacts to drinking water and none are expected. Mckinney Salvage and Heavy Lift are scheduled to commence salvage operations.

Commercial fishing and other maritime work is inherently dangerous. In fact, commercial fishing is America’s most dangerous industry. When seafarers board their vessels and navigate machinery in uncertain weather conditions in open water, they require every possible safety precaution in order to prevent maritime injuries and wrongful death. One key precautionary measure is too often overlooked.

Seafarers spend a considerable amount of time ensuring that their vessels and equipment are properly maintained. They ensure that they are adequately trained in their jobs and in safety procedures. But mounting evidence suggests that maritime workers and their employers do not spend enough time or resources ensuring that anyone operating a seafaring vessel is fit and healthy.

In an effort to address this critical safety issue, a new website called Training on Board was recently created and launched. Its aim is to educate seafarers on the link between physical health and safety. In particular, the site emphasizes good nutrition and physical training as a way to combat fatigue and other health-related safety concerns.

The 893 foot Carnival cruise ship Triumph reported a fire in the aft engine room Sunday morning. The ship’s fire control system and cruise ship personnel isolated and extinguished the engine room fire, but the vessel lost main propulsion and was left dead in the water in the Gulf of Mexico with more than 4,000 people onboard. The Coast Guard has been maintaining communication with the vessel, which lost power approximately 136 miles north of Merida, Mexico.

The ship has been operating on emergency power and receiving supplies from other cruise ships on scene. Tugs were dispatched to assist the vessel and the Coast Guard arrived Sunday night to escort the cruise ship to Mobile, Alabama, approximately 270 miles north. On Wednesday, the Coast Guard transported approximately 3,000 pounds of equipment, which included a generator and electrical cables. Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen said the Triumph is now expected arrive in Mobile between 8 and 11 p.m. Thursday.

Passengers aboard the vessel have described conditions as dismal. Speaking by phone to NBC’s “Today” show Thursday, passenger Janie Baker said conditions on the ship were “extremely terrible.” There has been no electricity and few working toilets, she said. Baker also described having to use plastic bags to go to the bathroom and wait in line for hours to get food and once saw a woman pass out while in line. Another passenger reported she waited in line for three hours to get a hot dog. “It’s just a nightmare,” Baker said. Baker said she and her friends slept with their life vests one night because the ship was listing and they feared it would tip over. Vivian Tilley, whose sister, Renee Shanar, is on the ship, said Shanar told her the cabins were hot and smelled like smoke from the engine fire, forcing passengers to stay on the deck. She also said people were getting sick. Communication with passengers on the Triumph has been limited to brief windows when other cruise ships with working cellular towers have rendezvoused to deliver supplies, but some relatives have reported being told of uncomfortable and unsanitary conditions.