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Articles Posted in Maritime News & Law

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Port-of-LongviewThe U.S. Coast Guard has launched an investigation after a serious incident killed two maritime workers and injured several others this week. The incident occurred Thursday morning, June 28, 2018, at Terminal 5 in Longview, Washington.

Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Columbia River received word from the captain of the Ansac Splendor, a Panama-flagged cargo vessel, that a mooring line had parted (snapped in half) as the ship was being moved along the dock from one loading hatch to another to facilitate the loading of cargo.

An initial report from investigators states that when the 2-inch thick line broke, it struck 34-year-old maritime worker Byron Jacobs. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Other workers were also struck by the mooring line; a second worker, 41-year-old Ping-Shan Li of China, was critically injured at the scene and taken to Southwest Washington Medical Center for care. He died on Friday from injuries sustained in the incident. Li was the chief mate of the Ansac Splendor.

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Alex-HaleyThe fishing vessel Run Da was detained by the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley on June 23rd after the vessel was suspected of illegal fishing activity in international waters 860 miles east of Hokkaido, Japan. A total of 80 tons of chum salmon and one ton of squid were found onboard.

The Alex Haley crew and People’s Republic of China Coast Guard officials conducted a joint international boarding of the Run Da after a U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak C-130 aircraft spotted the fishing vessel, which was suspected of violating the worldwide driftnet moratorium issued by the United Nations General Assembly Resolution.

After initial arrival on the scene, the U.S. Cost Guard and People’s Republic of China Coast Guard officials participated in a pre-boarding question and answer interview via VHF-FM radio. The results of this conversation confirmed fishing activity and the nationality of the vessel. The captain of the F/V Run Da admitted to fishing with driftnets up to 5.6 miles in length.

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C-S_System_OverviewApril 6th is National 406 Day. It is easy to remember, as the date (04/06) corresponds to the 406 MHz frequency used by these devices to transmit digital signals to satellites. These beacons are considered by many in the maritime trades to be the best life insurance available. And in some cases, they are legally required by vessel owners. To read more about safety gear, please see our page regarding life rafts, EPIRBs and survival suits. National 406 Day is also a reminder to anyone with a beacon that federal law requires registration to be current.

What exactly is an EPIRB? It is an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon that works by transmitting a signal via satellite that can then be relayed to a rescue coordination center. The device can be automatically activated (for example if the device is under more than 3 meters of water) or manually activated to transmit a distress signal.

Here is a list of 8 tips NOAA recommends when handling your EPIRB:

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Time_BanditA crabber working in the Alaska Bering Sea aboard the TIME BANDIT (the vessel made famous by the popular Discovery Channel reality series “Deadliest Catch”), was awarded $1.35 million by a Seattle jury for injuries sustained in a fireworks related explosion aboard the vessel.

According to court documents, David Zielinski suffered a shattered right hand and forearm when the explosive he was attempting to launch detonated prematurely. According to his attorney, Zielinski had been instructed by his employer to launch the custom-made explosive. Following the incident, Zielinski had to be airlifted from the ship to a medical clinic in Alaska, then flown to Seattle for surgery on his hand and arm. Since the accident, he has undergone several reconstructive surgeries, however the injury has put an end to his career as a commercial crabber.

Johnathan Hillstrand, one of the owners of the TIME BANDIT, admitted that he had suggested Zielinski claim the injuries were sustained while crabbing rather than from an explosive device. In a declaration, Johnathan Hillstrand stated that his brother Andy Hillstrand talked him out of the tactic.

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CoastGuardAwards-300x157We are pleased to report that the Coast Guard has named Tara Dodd 2016 active-duty enlisted person of the year and Nicole Cimino 2016 reserve enlisted person of the year for the 13th Coast Guard District.

Tara Dodd, Petty Officer 1st Class, is an active-duty culinary specialist assigned to the Coast Guard Cutter SWORDFISH. She has been described as a motivated self-starter who epitomizes sound leadership with her unique ability to instill confidence in others, and for her attention to detail, empathy, and mentorship. She is a respected leader, and through her own initiative has qualified for three additional special unit certifications. Dodd spends her off-duty time assisting a World War II veteran in the maintenance of his home and volunteers at the local Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, inspecting and replacing smoke detectors in local retirement facilities.

Nicole Cimino is the Lead Reserve Petty Officer of the armory at PSU 313 in Everett. Cimino supervises maintenance, training and range operations as well as maintaining the weapons qualifications for the 159 members assigned to the unit. Cimino has also served as a Level I trauma center nurse, where she has saved more than 1,000 seriously injured and critically wounded people. In addition to these accomplishments, she has led an armory team that exceeded Navy standards and received honors.

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El-Faro-300x225The third and final EL FARO hearing has been scheduled for February 6, 2017 in Jacksonville, Florida. The Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation will focus on crew witnesses, TOTE company officials, Coast Guard officials as well as the contents of EL FARO’S voyage data recorder (VDR). The transcript of bridge audio recordings was released on December 13, 2016, by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

The examination of data from the voyage data recorder began on August 15, one week after the device was located at a depth of 15,000 feet and brought to the surface. NTSB recovered about 26 hours of information from the device, including bridge audio, navigational data, onboard radar images, route planning and wind data.

The investigation seeks to determine which factors contributed to the sinking, and will look for evidence of misconduct, inattention to duty, negligence, willful violation of the law by any licensed or certified person, as well as whether there is any evidence that Coast Guard personnel or any government employee contributed to the accident.

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Brain_ScanIf you are a maritime worker, you already know that work at sea is dangerous. Jones Act or maritime law is in place to give rights to workers as well as an extra layer of protection. Know your rights, and if an accident does occur, we recommend that you follow these guidelines:

1. Report the Accident – It is imperative that you let your supervisor or captain know immediately that you have been injured. Jones Act or Maritime Law requires the injured party to report any work-related injury within seven (7) days, but don’t wait that long. The insurance company may assume that if you didn’t report the accident right away, it wasn’t very serious, so don’t wait. If you get hurt while working and you believe that your injuries need medical attention or have even the slightest chance of causing you to miss work, report it right away.

2. Seek Medical Attention – The law requires your employer to see that you receive medical treatment for your injuries. If you are at sea and your injuries are serious, the ship should have the Coast Guard medevac you to a hospital. If you are far out at sea or in international waters, a Coast Guard helicopter may be able to pick you up as soon as you are within range of the United States. The ship has the ability to consult with a physician by phone or radio if your condition is serious. And, if you are in a foreign country, your employer must get you proper medical treatment and get you back home at their expense. Your employer must pay for all medical attention that you need if you are injured or become ill while in the service of the vessel.

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The Canadian Transportation Board has issued a report criticizing American Seafoods Company for a lack of safety preparedness in a 2013 allision between AMERICAN DYNASTY and Canadian Frigate HMSC WINNIPEG. AMERICAN DYNASTY is a 272-foot American factory trawler run by a crew of up to 150 crewmen which experienced an electrical blackout while docking in Esquimalt, Victoria B.C., in 2013. During the blackout, the vessel gained speed and veered to the starboard before striking the WINNIPEG. The Safety Board noted that the auxiliary motors did not automatically turn on during the black out, and there was a breakdown in communication between the bridge and engineering department, resulting in the engineer not knowing the need to take urgent action to avoid the allision.

The Transportation Board stated: “The investigation found that, without procedures and comprehensive emergency drills, crews may not be proficient in taking mitigating action during an emergency. Effective management of safety requires individuals at all levels of an organization to identify and manage risks. In this occurrence, there were indications that aspects of safety associated with emergency preparedness and crew familiarization were not managed effectively.”

No injuries to the crew of AMERICAN DYNASTY were reported. However, six shipyard workers aboard WINNIPEG were reported to have suffered injuries. Although the impact was relatively slow, the size and power of these ships resulted in serious damage to both vessels.

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Many maritime employers require their prospective crewmen to answer a preemployment health questionnaire. These health questionnaires are rarely used in the hiring process and are instead utilized as weapons by maritime employers to attack the seaman’s credibility in cases where the seaman later becomes injured and seeks compensation under the Jones Act or Unseaworthiness Doctrine.

If a seaman fails to disclose a preexisting medical condition in response to a health questionnaire, the employer then attempts to deny the crewman maintenance and cure benefits, arguing that the seaman willfully concealed a preexisting condition. This defense to maintenance and cure claims, based upon willful concealment of preexisting medical conditions when asked to make disclosure in a health questionnaire, can be traced to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in McCorpen v. Central Gulf Steamship, 396 F.2d 547 (1968).

McCorpen did not hold that a maritime employer asserting the willful concealment defense could recover maintenance and payments they alleged were wrongfully paid. Nevertheless, some maritime employers have improperly sought to recover the previously paid benefits made to the injured seaman. This intimidation tactic is designed to frighten seamen who have been injured through the negligence of their employer or the unseaworthiness of their vessel into not bringing suit or settling their cases for less than fair compensation.
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Laws regarding saving human life are not always cut and dry. According to federal law, 45 USC Section 2304, the master of a vessel must aid anyone at sea who is in danger of losing their lives, as long as such rescue can be performed without serious threat to the master, the master’s vessel, and those on board. However, maritime law is in agreement with common law in that an individual, including a vessel master, has this statutory duty to assist those in peril at sea only when a certain relationship exists, such as carrier/passenger, vessel/seaman, and employer/employee; also, whoever has caused a danger at sea must aid any persons or property they have endangered. Further, whether because of an established relationship or as a Good Samaritan, if an individual attempts a rescue which results in further harm due to negligence, recklessness, or wantonness, he or she may be held liable for damages.

How does this relate to the United States Coast Guard, which is a federal agency, and USCG employees? Does the USCG have a duty to provide rescue on demand? What standards of performance and care apply to the USCG, and under what circumstances can the USCG be held liable?
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