Maritime Injury Law Blog
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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.

Lt. Ben Neal, a pilot at Coast Guard Air Sitka said, “The crew of the KUPREANOF did the right thing by calling for help, putting on their immersion suits and safely abandoning the ship. Emergencies can occur at any time and having the right safety equipment is critical when operating in Alaska’s extreme environment.”

The Coast Guard will investigate the cause of the vessel sinking. Scott Giard, the command duty officer of the Juneau Sector said, “As of Oct. 15, 2015, commercial fishing vessel safety exams will be mandatory for vessels operating beyond three nautical miles offshore. This case is a perfect example of why exams are crucial for the safety of fishermen.”

To see a Coast Guard video of part of the rescue, watch: https://www.dvidshub.net/video/408810/coast-guard-rescues-4-sinking-vessel

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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.”

Kenneth Martin was a member of the Makah Tribe. Our deepest condolences also go out to his family and friends.

The F/V SEA BEAST, built in 1974, homeported in Neah Bay. It was a red and white live-hold boat which keeps fish and crab alive in an aerated tank in the hold.

The Coast Guard notified NOAA of the sinking of the SEA BEAST in the Olympic National Marine Sanctuary, with a potential of 500 gallons of diesel on board. No pollution has been reported at this time. The vessel sank in 400 feet of water and is not considered a threat to navigation.

Weather on scene at the time of the sinking was reportedly 5 to 10 mph winds and 4-foot seas.

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Crew from the 82-foot F/V NORTHERN PRIDE called out a Mayday around 2 pm on April 21, 2015 and abandoned ship due to a fire in the engine room. The Good Samaritan F/V DANCER relayed the Mayday to the Coast Guard who sent a Kodiak, Alaska Jayhawk helicopter crew to the life raft located off Stevenson Entrance, 60 miles north of Kodiak.

“We couldn’t fight the fire; it was too smoky; it was scary,” said Scott Beckstrom, captain of the NORTHERN PRIDE. “So we made a distress call, put on our survival suits, manually launched the life raft and got in safely, turned on the EPIRB and waited for our heroes who came within a half hour.”

Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Lindsey Green, operations specialist, Sector Anchorage command center said, “The crew of the NORTHERN PRIDE was prepared and took the necessary steps to ensure their safety when their vessel caught on fire. Emergencies can occur at any time and having the right safety equipment is critical when operating in Alaska’s extreme environments.”

The three crewmembers were reported in good condition. Weather at the time was 20 mph winds and seas of 3-4 feet. The fate of the NORTHERN PRIDE is currently unknown.

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An electrical fire broke out onboard the passenger ferry VICTORIA CLIPPER on April 16, 2015 while en route from Victoria BC to Seattle, WA. VICTORIA CLIPPER crew called the Coast Guard around 7:15 pm to report the fire in a forward space housing the anchor windlass. The ferry was located off Port Townsend with 223 passengers on board when the fire broke out. Ferry crew extinguished the fire and no one was injured.

The Coast Guard notified the WA State Ferry Operation Center and the Seattle Fire Department to assist if necessary, and a Coast Guard helicopter and patrol boat crew escorted the ferry safely back to Seattle.

“The response of the VICTORIA CLIPPER crew was exceptional,” said Lt. Raffael Shamilov, command duty officer at the Coast Guard 13th District Command Center in Seattle. The Coast Guard will investigate the cause of the fire.

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In the space of three days, the WA Coast Guard recently terminated the voyages of two fishing vessels: The FV DAYBREAK in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and a state-registered fishing vessel near Anacortes.

The F/V DAYBREAK lacked a life raft, visual distress signals, and enough survival suits. The Coast Guard escorted the vessel to Neah Bay. The vessel near Anacortes lacked a sound producing device, enough life jackets, and a current fishing vessel inspection. The boat was escorted to Anacortes.

“It’s imperative for mariners to have crucial safety equipment on board,” said Dan Hardin, 13th Coast Guard District/Pacific Northwest commercial fishing vessel safety coordinator. “The chances of survival are immediately lessened when this vital gear is either not on board or inoperable.”

Both vessels will remain in port until commercial fishing vessel examiners from Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound, Seattle, verify safety deficiencies have been corrected.

Don’t jeopardize you and your crew’s safety: buy and maintain quality safety equipment for your vessel. Wasting time sitting at the dock won’t be any fun, either.

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The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its “Safer Seas 2014: Lessons Learned from Marine Accident Investigations” report on April 1, 2015. 23 major marine accidents from many U.S. maritime regions are summarized and lessons are analyzed from each accident.

Issues in the 43-page report focus on understanding vessel control systems, passenger safety during critical maneuvers, vessel maintenance, and crew training.

Safer Seas 2014 is available on the NTSB website at:
http://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/AccidentReports/Reports/SPC1501.pdf