Boat on the sea
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Mooring-Line
The recent death of a worker on the Duwamish Waterway in South Seattle is a grave reminder of the importance of mooring line safety. John Henry Volkmann IV was trying to tie a gravel barge at the dock of a concrete plant on East Marginal Way South, when the mooring line he was working with broke. Mr. Volkmann was struck and fell into the water. Fire crews immediately responded and recovered Mr. Volkmann from the water, but he was in critical condition. He died at the scene.

When a mooring line parts or breaks, it is like a giant rubber band breaking, and as we know from past cases and incidents, the results can be debilitating or deadly to those working with the line. This training video  created by the US Navy may be dated, but it shows viewers just how dangerous a broken mooring line can be to nearby crew members.

According to a Risk Alert bulletin published by Steamship Mutual Loss Prevention, mooring lines require care, maintenance, and inspection. Steamship Mutual urges members to put a planned maintenance system in place to assure safety. Below are just a few recommendations for vessel owners:

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Broken-Lobster-Pot1200x636A new bill is on the way to the Maine State Legislature, and if Representative Mick Devin can get approval next year, a new task force of healthcare professionals and community leaders will work on one of the state of Maine’s greatest maritime issues; opioid drug abuse and addiction.

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collect more data, it is reported that approximately 60,000 Americans died in 2016 from opioid overdose, almost a 100% increase over 2015, with 33,000 confirmed deaths. Nearly half of those involved prescription opioids. The same report concludes that among the deaths that involved Fentanyl, the Northeast states of Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island were among the highest in the nation. While there are currently no statistics by occupation, this is an issue that often hits the fishing industry hard.

The opioid crisis is especially complicated for people who work at sea. The work is physically demanding. Long hours of physical labor can cause severe pain, and injuries that are not allowed time to heal may become chronic. Fishermen are often at sea for weeks at a time or work in very remote locations away from healthcare. When healthcare is available, and opioids prescribed, the medication often runs out while workers are at sea. If pain is still present, workers may seek to utilize other options.

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IcelandArcticCircle1200x636
In what is being called an historic agreement, countries have joined forces and agreed to a moratorium on commercial fishing within the unregulated Arctic Ocean. Five countries with Arctic shorelines, the United States, Canada, Russia, Norway, and Denmark (representing Greenland), have come to an agreement with Iceland, China, Japan, South Korea, and the European Union. All have signed on.

While commercial fishing in the icebound Arctic Ocean would not have been a possibility even a decade ago, the area is rapidly opening. Scientists agree that the polar ice cap is melting at an alarming rate, and current studies show that about 42% of the central Arctic Ocean thaws during the summer months. If this trajectory continues, commercial fishing fleets will before long have access to these unregulated waters. The agreement prohibits trawling in the international zone of the Arctic Ocean for 16 years. This will allow scientists to better understand the region’s marine ecology and form a plan for sustainable fishing.

The agreement protects approximately 2.8 million square kilometers of international waters, and was reached following more than two years of discussions and negotiations, according to Science magazine. “It’s the first time an international agreement of this magnitude has been reached before any commercial fishing takes place on a region of the high seas,” said Dominic LeBlanc, Canada’s minister of fisheries, oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, in a statement. “There is no other high seas area where we’ve decided to do the science first,” says Scott Highleyman, vice president of conservation policy and programs at the Ocean Conservancy in Washington, D.C., who also served on the U.S. delegation to the negotiations. “It’s a great example of putting the precautionary principle into action.”

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Crab_fishing_boatThe overall safety of the commercial fishing industry is becoming safer every year. Those are the findings in a report issued by NIOSH in July of 2017. However, experts agree that an area that needs improvement concerns outdated stability reports. The US Coast Guard requires all fishing and crabbing vessels to carry a stability report which has been prepared by a Naval Architect. Problems arise when these reports are out of date.

According to A Best Practices Guide to Vessel Stability published by the US Coast Guard, vessel stability is defined as “the ability of a fishing vessel to return to its upright position after being heeled over by any combination of wind, waves, or forces from fishing operations.” If a vessel is “unstable”, it does not have sufficient ability to counter these external forces, therefore it is susceptible to capsizing.

The two variables in the stability equation are buoyancy and gravity. Buoyancy is the force acting to push the vessel up in the water, making the vessel float. In stability analysis, the total buoyancy forces are distributed over the part of the hull below the water, and the buoyancy of a vessel is a fixed variable as it is based on the architecture of the vessel. Gravity is the force acting to pull the vessel down in the water. The total weight of the vessel includes all gear, fuel, catch, ice, bait, etc. These weights are distributed throughout the hull, and mathematically combined into a single point called the center of gravity. Because weight is constantly being added and subtracted from a vessel, gravity is not a fixed variable; it is constantly in flux.

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Disembarking-via-gangway-OSHAWe have all heard that working in the commercial fishing industry is the most dangerous type of work in the nation. Commercial fishing has long topped the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ list of jobs with the most injuries and fatalities. However, many accidents happen before boats leave the dock or upon returning from sea. This is because many vessels are not seaworthy, and seaworthiness begins with safe access to ladders, walkways, gangways, and gangplanks.  Gangway related injuries and fatalities are so common that The Shipowners’ Protection Limited, a mutual insurance organization, has published a report titled Gangways, which can be read in full here. 

Under Maritime Law, a vessel is considered unseaworthy when a vessel is poorly kept or poorly maintained. In some cases, ship owners may fail to supply proper means for the crew to pass from ship to shore. A seaworthy vessel must have well-maintained equipment that is in working order. Workers must be properly prepared and trained, and routes for boarding, disembarking, and loading a vessel must be hazard-free. Jumping on or from the vessel is not an option. Even if the vessel is less than a foot from the dock, the ship owner is required to provide a safe passage for workers to and from the dock. When evaluating a case, a lawyer will consider the nature of an injury as well as the seaworthiness of the vessel.

Maritime work is dangerous by its very nature. However, that does not mean that workers must accept a high level of risk. There are many federal and industry safety standards that apply to boarding and disembarking a vessel, including Coast Guard regulations and OSHA regulations. If these safety standards are ignored, there can be liability on the part of the vessel owner. For example, using a gangway to board a vessel does carry some amount of risk. But that risk is mitigated when safety precautions and guidelines are followed. If, however, safety is ignored, then the act of using the gangway carries unacceptable risk. This is considered negligence and unseaworthiness. Workers MUST have a safe and well-maintained way of getting aboard and disembarking a vessel.

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Deepwater_Horizon_offshore_drilling_unit_on_fire_Coast_Guard-1One person is missing and 7 others have been injured in an oil rig platform explosion on Lake Pontchartrain near Kenner, Louisiana.

Locals reported an explosion that sounded like a “sonic boom” at approximately 7:20 p.m. on October 15th. Sector New Orleans was alerted and launched a Coast Guard Station New Orleans 29-foot Response Boat-Small boatcrew, a Station New Orleans 45-foot Response Boat-Medium boatcrew, and a Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin Helicopter in response to the incident. Bayou Gauche Fire Department vessels, Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries vessels, and a “good Samaritan” vessel were also at the scene.

The platform acts as a storage and transfer structure for oil wells on the lake. Clovelly Oil Co., the owner of the platform, said it is also used as a natural gas platform. The fire burned overnight, but was extinguished by morning. “Our first objective from the firefighting standpoint is we’re trying to stop the oil flow if there’s any and at that point we have to cool it and let it burn off,” said Fire Chief David Tibbets of the East Bank Consolidated Fire Department.

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Rolls-Royce-Fishing-Vessel-1024x536At the Google Cloud Summit in Stockholm, Sweden, Rolls-Royce announced that it will be applying Google’s Cloud Machine Learning Engine to power autonomous ships. The technology will be used to detect, identify, and track surface objects that vessels encounter while at sea to make the maritime industry safer and more efficient.

Rolls-Royce senior vice president for ship intelligence, Karno Tenovuo, said “While intelligent awareness systems will help to facilitate an autonomous future, they can benefit maritime businesses right now making vessels and their crews safer and more efficient. By working with Google Cloud, we can make these systems better, faster, saving lives.”

Eva Fors, Head of Google Cloud Sales Nordics said, “By exploring the possibilities presented by machine learning, Rolls-Royce can combine the latest technology advancements with its deep knowledge of the maritime industry, ultimately bringing significant improvements to the sector.”

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Crowley-Tanker-PennsylvaniaThe Jones Act Waiver that we reported on last week, has been extended through September 22, 2017 at the recommendation of the Departments of Defense and Energy. The waiver was initially signed on September 8, 2017 by the Department of Homeland Security.

Severe disruptions in the fuel supply system resulted from the mass evacuation of millions of Floridians as they left the areas where hurricanes were predicted to hit. To facilitate movement, maintain services, and rebuild after these devastating storms, refined petroleum products including jet fuel, diesel, and gasoline may be shipped from New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Arkansas to Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and Puerto Rico under foreign flagged ships until the September 22nd deadline.

Crowley Maritime, a Jacksonville based company, has dispatched 18 Jones Act vessels to deliver fuel to Florida ports in the next week. In addition to Tampa, fuel will be discharged in Port Canaveral and Ft. Lauderdale. The vessels will bring approximately 2.75 million barrels of gasoline and 500,000 barrels of diesel in the next 8 days.

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No_Gas_SignTwo U.S. government agencies have waived restrictions in an effort to rebuild infrastructure and respond to citizen needs in the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The Environmental Protection Agency has extended a 38-state fuel emissions waiver for storm related supply distributions across the U.S. The emissions waiver will be in effect until September 15th, and eliminates the need for states to meet strict emission requirements for low-volatility gasoline. These waivers will allow fuel to make it to market more quickly and reduce supply shortfalls caused by the storms.

In a similar sanction, the Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke approved a waiver of the Jones Act.  The waiver will ensure that all options for the distribution of fuel are available to states and territories impacted by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

“This is a precautionary measure to ensure we have enough fuel to support lifesaving efforts, respond to the storm, and restore critical services and critical infrastructure operations in the wake of this potentially devastating storm,” said Acting Secretary Duke.

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AtlanticSalmon-e1504048126863A breach in a net pen was initially blamed on high tides and the eclipse.  However, in a revised press release, Cooke Aquaculture no longer listed the eclipse as a possible cause, but rather “Exceptionally high tides and currents caused damage to a salmon farm that has been in operation near Cypress Island for approximately 30 years.”

Whatever the cause of the Atlantic salmon spill on Cyprus Island, aquaculture operations have been put on hold in the Pacific Northwest after a moratorium was placed on new and pending permits for fish farming in Washington State. Governor Jay Inslee and Hilary Franz, Commissioner of Public Lands, jointly imposed the freeze on permits after the Cooke Aquaculture Pacific net pen breech occurred on August 19th.

Cooke leases public bedlands from the Department of Natural Resources, and is now in violation of that lease agreement. In order for Canadian based Cooke Aquaculture Pacific to be “in compliance” with the terms of their lease, they must clean up and manage pen failures at the Cypress Island facility said Cori Simmons, head of communications for the Department of Natural Resources.