Maritime Injury Law Blog
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The Seattle Fishermen’s Memorial is sponsoring their first “Fishermen’s Safety Fair.” The day long event on May 16th will be held at Dock 9 at Fisherman’s Terminal in Ballard.  Prizes will be awarded throughout the day to participants and those attending the festival.   The festival is to promote commercial fishing safety with free practical skill training and education given throughout the day to crewmen and boat owners.  Skills stations providing information and instruction on survival suits and life rafts, man overboard rescue and recovery, personal flotation devices, flares and signals, and Mayday distress calls have been planned.  Participating in the safety fair will be the United States Coast Guard, NIOSH, NPFVOA, local fishing companies such as Trident Seafoods, and marine safety companies including Fremont Maritime.

Seattle is home base for much of the Alaska and Bering Sea commercial fishing fleet, and all local commercial fishermen and their families are invited to participate in the free fair designed to heighten safety awareness and provide basic introduction to marine safety topics that save the lives of commercial fishermen. The sponsor of the Seattle Fishermen’s Memorial event offers rebates for maritime safety training in vessel stability, first aid, firefighting and drill instructor training.  To determine your qualifications to obtain these valuable rebates, visit the Seattle Fishermen’s Memorial home page.  There is no excuse to not be trained in safety and to have the proper safety equipment aboard your vessel.  Your life and your crew’s lives depend on proper safety training and safety equipment.



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April 18, 2016

Three fishermen have been rescued from the water at Makah Bay following the capsizing of their fishing vessel. The vessel was able to radio a Mayday message via VFH radio to the Coast Guard before the vessel capsized.  The three men were wearing lifejackets and sitting on top of the overturned vessel when the 47-foot Coast Guard life boat arrived on the scene.   The accident involved a small 21-foot fishing vessel.  The men were transported to the Coast Guard Station at Neah Bay.  One man was treated for hypothermia following the incident.

Vessels big and small must always be prepared for an emergency. Having proper safety equipment aboard your boat that is available to quickly be used may mean the difference between surviving and not surviving a sudden accident such as this.  Today VFH radios are relatively inexpensive and, as this case proves, well worth the investment when disaster suddenly strikes your vessel.   It is a well recognized statistic in sinking and capsizing cases that your chances of survival are far higher if you are wearing a life jacket.

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April 15, 2016

Three crewmen from the commercial fishing vessel Privateer have been rescued by the Coast Guard. The seventy-five foot fishing vessel began taking on water in eight foot swells Friday afternoon approximately a mile from Grays Harbor.  The vessel’s crew radioed for help, stating that they were taking on water through an 8-10  inch hole and were preparing to abandon ship.  A motor life boat from the Coast Guard Station in Grays Harbor was dispatched and attempted to aid the vessel with dewatering pumps; however, the pumps could not keep up with the flooding and the crew was forced to abandon the sinking vessel.   There were no reported injuries in the accident, although one crewman was evaluated for possible heart problems.

The Coast Guard indicated that the crew of the Privateer appeared to be well trained and prepared for an emergency such as this.  However, commercial fishing vessel sinkings continue to happen with far too much regularity along the Washington and Oregon Coast.  Maritime safety regulations now require all commercial fishing vessels  to carry mandatory life saving equipment such as EPIRBS and survival suits.  Fishing vessels are also required to conduct regular safety drills in abandon ship procedures.  However, for most fishing vessels there are few safety requirements relating to regular inspection and maintenance of the vessels’ hull and machinery.  The cause of this accident is currently unknown and under investigation by the Coast Guard.

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APRIL 1, 2016

A Seattle Federal Court Jury has awarded an Alaska Ferry worker and her husband 16 million dollars in total compensatory damages for injuries she suffered when a gangway she was working upon collapsed at the Port of Bellingham.  Shannon Adamson, a Mate aboard an Alaska Ferry, was injured in an 18 foot fall in November of 2012 when a large gangway she was standing on, while lowering the gangway for passengers to board the ferry, suddenly collapsed.  Experts in engineering safety determined that critical safety controls for the gangway had not been installed, allowing potentially lethal slack to develop in the cables used to raise and lower the ramp.  Following a two week trial, the jury returned a unanimous verdict in favor of Adamson and her husband Nicholas.

The passenger gangway, which was owned by the Port and being leased by the Alaska Ferry system, had previous problems and was involved in a near collapse in 2008. Following the first gangway failure, engineers working for the Port of Bellingham recommended that a safety “limit switch” be installed, which would have prevented the operation of the controls in such a manner that the pins used to lock the gangway into position could not be removed if cables used to lower and raise the gangway had been previously  slacked.  The Port of Bellingham failed to install the recommended safety limit switch which would have cost just a few dollars to install.

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Friday, The United States Coast Guard placed limitations on the movement of deep draft vessels across the Coos Bay Harbor entrance. The action came following the capsizing of the SARA JO on the Coos bay bar last week.   One crewman died in the sinking of the 49 foot SARA JO, and two men are reported injured.  The Coast Guard has cautioned all vessels navigating in the Coos Bay bar area to keep a sharp lookout for possible wreckage and debris.  The cause of the SARA JO loss is under investigation by the Coast Guard.

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A fisherman aboard the BARBARA J has been airlifted for medical treatment. The crewman reportedly was injured in a fall down the vessel’s stairs and needed emergency medical treatment.  The accident happened on Sunday near Unimak Pass.  Weather conditions were reported as 29 mph winds with 6 foot seas.  The crewman was taken by helicopter to Cold Bay, where he was transferred to Anchorage for further medical treatment.

Slip and falls down vessel stairs and vessel ladders frequently result in serious injury to fishing boat crewmen.  It is important that all vessels have safely constructed and designed ladders.  Stairs should be constructed at safe angles, have proper rise and depth, have non slip surfaces, and be equipped with proper hand rails.  Current safe construction standards for vessel stairs can be found in ASTM F-1166-07.

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The 65 foot fishing vessel CAPTAIN JOHN sank Sunday night 30 miles west of La Push. Five crewmen aboard the vessel are reported safe.  The vessel sent a distress call to the Coast Guard at 2:45 p.m. Sunday afternoon indicating the vessel was flooding and in danger of sinking.  The Coast Guard dispatched a Dolphin Helicopter and motor life boat to the scene.  A Coast Guard rescue swimmer helped the crew into the CAPTAIN JOHN’s life raft, where the crew remained until the motor life boat arrived on the scene.  Weather conditions were reported as mild with seas of 2-3 feet and winds of 15 MPH.   The vessel was reported to have been loaded with 70,000 pounds of Dover Sole.

Commercial fishing off the coast of Washington and Oregon remains extremely dangerous. Few regulations apply to commercial fishing vessels of this size. The cause of this sinking is under investigation.  The Coast Guard investigation will likely investigate the construction and design of the vessel, and maintenance and repair records for the vessel, as well as the vessel’s safety equipment.   In similar sinkings in this area, such as the LADY CECELIA in 2012, the Coast Guard investigation has looked at how the loading of the vessel may have impacted stability.

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Two fishermen are missing and one is confirmed dead in an Oregon crab boat accident. An EPIRB signal was received late Tuesday night alerting the Coast Guard that the EAGLE III was in trouble.   The forty foot vessel had collided with the north jetty at Coos Bay and broken apart.   At the time of the incident, winds were 30 mph and seas were estimated at 8-10 feet.   The EAGLE III is home ported in Port Orford, California.  The Captain of the EAGLE III is reported to have survived the incident. The search has been suspended for the two missing crew.  The cause of the incident is under investigation.  The Coast Guard will likely investigate whether the EAGLE III was seaworthy, the crew properly trained, and whether or not navigational error may have contributed to the crewmen deaths.  The Oregon and Washington Crab fishery has again proven itself to be one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.  Small vessels such as the EAGLE III often face weather conditions that place them in peril.

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As the F/V KUPREANOF sank in stormy seas on June 10 near Lituya Bay in Southeast Alaska, a Sitka Coast Guard helicopter crew plucked the ship’s four crewmembers out of the water and flew them to the safety of Sitka emergency services.

That morning, the captain of the 73-foot F/V KUPREANOF called in a MAYDAY to the Coast Guard stating that the boat was taking on water and sinking. He had ordered his crew to don their immersion suits and ready the life raft. He was worried about one of his older crewmembers who couldn’t swim. Weather conditions were 7-foot high waves and 10-mph winds.

The Coast Guard Jayhawk helicopter arrived at the vessel just as the crewmembers were abandoning ship and swimming to the life raft. The rescue team hoisted each crewmember out of the water and then flew back to the Sitka Medical Center. All four men were reported in good condition.

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At 3 am on May 3, 2015, the Coast Guard received a May Day call from Kenneth Martin, Master of the 52-foot F/V SEA BEAST. Martin told them that the stern was taking on water and the boat was sinking approximately 14 miles offshore of La Push, WA. Three crewmen successfully abandoned ship into a life raft, but the SEA BEAST reportedly capsized with Martin still onboard.

The Coast Guard found and rescued the three men in the life raft and took them to Station Quillayute River in La Push. Coast Guard helicopter crews and motor lifeboat crews searched over 498 square miles looking for Martin, but they finally suspended the search after 17 hours, said Petty Officer Jonathan Klingenberg, spokesman for the Seattle Coast Guard.

“One of the hardest decisions the Coast Guard has to make is when to suspend a search for a missing person,” said Cmdr. Brian Meier, of the Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound response division. “Our heartfelt condolences go out to the friends, family and loved ones of the vessel captain.”