Boat on the sea
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Kennicott_Alaska_Ferry_Front_View_2048px-300x225In November of 2012, Shannon Adamson suffered life-threatening injuries when the passenger gangway she was standing on collapsed. She fell 18-feet and suffered a shattered pelvis and sacrum, fractures in her lower back, loss of sensation in her right leg, a broken ankle, wrist and ribs, two punctured lungs, a lacerated liver, and a traumatic brain injury. Adamson required extensive surgery after this horrific fall and long painful sessions with a physical therapist just to learn how to walk again.

Court documents revealed that the Port of Bellingham was aware of a defect in the passenger gangway due to a similar accident that occurred in 2008. Engineering safety experts reported that the faulty system could have been resolved, but port authorities failed to install the recommended safety “limit switch”. The device would have cost the port less than $1000.

In the 2016 federal court case, the jury found the Port of Bellingham negligent, and not Adamson or the State of Alaska. Adamson was an employee of the Alaska Marine Highway System, but the court ruled that the defective passenger gangway was owned by the port. On Thursday, April 11th, 2019 the Port of Bellingham lost an appeal when the Washington State Supreme Court agreed with the previous ruling: Commercial landowners are liable for injuries that occur on the property they are responsible for maintaining, even if a tenant has priority to use the property, concluding that the Port of Bellingham must pay a jury’s $16 million verdict to the injured ferry worker.

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Coast-Guard-Hoisting-300x200Three Tampa Bay fishermen are glad to be alive after the 32-foot F/V MISS SATURIA sank about 90 miles west of Naples, Florida. Watchstanders in St. Petersburg received mayday calls from an unknown source, then launched a U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater MH-60 helicopter crew and an HC-144 Ocean Sentry airplane crew to search for survivors.

The Norwegian Pearl and the Rotterdam cruise ships both reported that they heard the mayday calls near their locations. The Norwegian Pearl diverted course to assist in the search. About 40 minutes later, the Coast Guard reported that they had received an alert from an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon registered to the MISS SATURIA. The vessel owner, James Glover, was contacted and reported that three fishermen were out on the vessel.

The U.S. Coast Guard sent an Ocean Sentry airplane crew from Miami to search for the men, then sent a helicopter to complete the rescue after the life raft strobe lights and red flares were spotted at about 4am. The Jayhawk helicopter crew hoisted the fishermen then transferred them to the air station where emergency medical personnel were waiting.

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CG-Kodiak-Air-Station-300x188Watchstanders at the U.S. Coast Guard 17th District Command Center in Juneau received a call on Monday that a crew member aboard the F/V RESURRECTION was suffering from what appeared to be a heart attack. A medevac was requested request at about 9 p.m.

The 49-foot longline fishing vessel was located approximately 65 miles east of Kodiak when the call was made. An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew launched from Air Station Kodiak, and a rescue swimmer was lowered with a rescue basket, then hoisted the 38-year-old man to the helicopter. He was transported to Air Station Kodiak and placed in the care of EMS personnel, who transported him to Kodiak Providence Hospital.

“We sent a health technician to supplement the in-flight care, along with our standard aircrew members,” said Lt. Cmdr. Orion Bloom, search and rescue mission coordinator for the case. “When we know that a survivor is experiencing symptoms that might benefit from a level of care beyond what our rescue swimmers are trained to provide, we do our best to provide that higher level of care. We wish this man a swift recovery.”

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VikingSky-300x188Rocky seas can be a nuisance for cruise ship passengers, but when the weather turns stormy with high seas, that inconvenience can quickly turn into real danger for passengers and crew. That is exactly what happened this week as the cruise ship VIKING SKY experienced extreme weather and complete engine failure, then began drifting towards the shore.

The VIKING SKY was carrying 1373 passengers and crew members as it sailed towards Stavanger, Norway. Engines went out in a particularly rough patch of sea, and a mayday call was issued just before the crew managed to drop anchor in Hustadvika Bay.

Five helicopters were sent to the scene and began evacuating people, one at a time, as the ship was tossed around by 26-foot seas and 43 mph wind gusts. It was reported that the crew was ready with lifeboats for a complete evacuation, but the heavy seas made lifeboat evacuations impossible.

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Alaska_fishermen_working_with_net-300x225In an effort to lower the barrier to entry in the fishing industry, to retire a “graying fleet” of vessels, and to attract a younger group of fishers into the industry, the Local Fish Fund has announced a new and innovative loan program. Loans are structured based on quotas and shares rather than fixed payments, which creates a system that is flexible and spreads risk.

“The cost and risk involved in accessing Alaska’s quota share fisheries are comparable to purchasing a hotel as a first step in home ownership,” said Linda Behnken, founder of the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust and director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association in Sitka. “We’re looking for ways to help the next generation of fishing families get that start and build sufficient equity to eventually access conventional loans. Part of what has made it really challenging to buy into the fisheries is the uncertainty and how that will affect their ability to make fixed payments that don’t fluctuate as catches or fish prices drop,” Behnken said. “We share and reduce that risk, so the payments are based on what fishermen are paid at the dock. If the price falls, so does the payment; conversely, if they go up, it’s a bigger share.”

A recent survey reported that the average age of an Alaska fisherman is 50. Fewer young people are entering the field due to financial barriers such as a limited number of permits available as well as high vessel and equipment costs. Participants in the new Local Fish Fund loan program must be willing to participate in fishery conservation programs and agree to a variable repayment structure based on the value of their catch. As young fishers work to repay these loans, they build equity as well as credit history, making future loans and refinancing with traditional lenders an option. The “quota shares” will act as collateral for the borrower.

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Louisiana-BargeA maritime construction worker has been awarded $3.3 million after a Louisiana federal court judge ruled that the worker’s head and spinal injuries were due to a captain’s negligence. The case was covered by the Jones Act and the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA).

Devin Barrios, a maritime construction worker, was transferring a portable generator from a boat to a barge when the accident occurred. Rather than secure the two vessels properly with mooring lines, the captain used engine power alone to hold the two vessels together during the transfer. The 22-year old was straddling the two vessels when they unexpectedly shifted. Barrios fell in the water, and the 150-pound generator tumbled down on top of him. He suffered a head injury with mild brain trauma that required 28 staples, and his spinal injuries required surgery. There is still the possibility of future surgery.

Jones Act and LHWCA grant unique and special rights to maritime workers. The LHWCA provides rights for land-based workers who perform work on, for, and around vessels. Employers are required to provide compensation irrespective of fault for the accidental injury or death arising out of a covered worker’s employment. Under the Jones Act, an employer is required to provide crewmembers with a reasonably safe place to work and reasonable care to prevent injuries. Negligence is the failure to do something that a reasonably prudent person would do, or not do, under similar circumstances. In this case, the reasonable and prudent option would have been to use mooring lines during the transfer of equipment. In the event of an injury, the employer is obligated to provide maintenance and cure, regardless of fault or negligence.

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DestinationMemorialAfter a two-year investigation, the U.S. Coast Guard has released its findings regarding the devastating F/V DESTINATION accident that took the lives of all six crew members aboard the vessel. According to Captain Lee Boone, Chief of Coast Guard Investigations, “It just wasn’t one thing”.

On February 11th, 2017, the crew of the Seattle-based crab boat, DESTINATION set off into the Bering Sea with a stability report that was more than 20 years old, an exhausted crew, and freezing spray and ice that overloaded the vessel.

“Since 1993, some changes had been made to the vessel,” Captain Boone said. “Those should have been incorporated into updated stability instructions that the master could follow.”

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Cutter_Midgett-300x200Hand injuries can be devastating and sometimes career-ending for people who work at sea. Medical attention must be secured quickly after an injury for the best outcome. On Sunday, March 3rd, the U.S. Coast Guard medevaced a 57-year-old male after he sustained a hand injury while working aboard the F/V OCEAN ROVER.

Watchstanders at Coast Guard 17th District Command Center in Juneau, Alaska received a call from Health Force Partners that a crewmember had suffered an injury and required medical attention. The Coast Guard Duty flight surgeon recommended a medevac, and an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew aboard the Cutter John Midgett hoisted the man from the F/V OCEAN ROVER. He was flown to Cold Bay then taken to Alaska Regional Hospital in Anchorage for treatment.

“This same helicopter crew has now conducted four medevacs over the past week in the vicinity of Cold Bay,” said Chief Petty Officer Michael Haselden, command duty officer for the case. “Having this helicopter crew deployed in the Bering Sea with Coast Guard Cutter John Midgett was a strategy that paid off tremendously for the fishing fleet. The cutter crew has worked tirelessly to support the helicopter crew, providing opportunities to land and refuel as necessary.”

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Bering-Sea-AK-300x225Once again, forward deployed assets were able to quickly and efficiently respond to a member of the maritime community in need of medical assistance.

Alaska Maritime Physicians relayed the message to watchstanders at Coast Guard 17th District Command Center in Juneau, that a man aboard the F/V VAERDAL was suffering from chest pains. The duty flight surgeon was briefed and requested a helicopter crew.

A forward deployed Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew, aboard the Coast Guard Cutter John Midgett, medevaced the man from the vessel, which was located approximately 70 miles north of Cold Bay. He was then transported to awaiting medical personnel.

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Telemedicine-300x220Imagine being out at sea when suddenly your crewmember begins feeling weak and complains of a faint pain in his chest. When someone falls ill or is injured at sea, time, information, and support are crucial. This is a situation that requires “Telemedicine.”

Telemedicine is the term we use to describe telecommunication and information technology that helps provide clinical health care from a distance. It is a crucial service for those who work at sea and has saved countless lives in emergency situations.

In the past, radios and telephones were used to deliver information and messages. Now, via cell and satellite technology, physicians can use iPhones, iPads, photos, and video technology to diagnose and sometimes treat patients remotely.