Articles Posted in Maritime Safety

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Coast_Guard_Sentinel_CutterAstoria is set to receive two new lifesaving Sentinel-class cutters. One has already been deployed in Ketchikan, the USCGC John McCormick. These are part of a Coast Guard plan to commission 58 new Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutters, replacing aging Island-class cutters.

The new cutters are 154 ft. long (compared to the 110 ft. Island-class) and feature technology updates, such as weapons systems upgrades, small boat stern launch capabilities (to achieve safer and more efficient operations), and a five knot speed increase over the Island-class vessel. Command, control, communications, and intelligence systems have been updated with state of the art technology. The Sentinel-class cutter can reach speeds in excess of 28 knots, and the new small boats can reach speeds of 40 knots.

The new Sentinel-class vessels are to be named after enlisted Coast Guard servicemen and women who distinguished themselves in the line of duty. The first deployed cutter of its class, the USCGC Bernard C. Webber, is named for the Coxswain of the 36-foot wooden Coast Guard Motor Lifeboat CG 36500, which pulled one of the most daring rescues in Coast Guard history. Webber and his crew faced 60-foot seas to rescue 32 crewmen from the SS Pendleton in February, 1952.

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Stacey-and-Jacobsen-Cropped-e1481062312338On March 9, 2017, in a landmark case handled by Stacey and Jacobsen, PLLC, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled unanimously that punitive damages may be awarded to injured fishermen and seamen when the case involves a general maritime unseaworthiness claim. Where an employer recklessly provides a vessel or equipment that is not reasonably fit, the employee may bring a separate additional claim of punitive damages. This ruling is a precedent setting victory for maritime workers throughout the nation. No other State Supreme Court has yet ruled on this issue. We are very pleased that employees now have an additional weapon in their arsenal to obtain justice and, at the same time, hopefully curtail dangerous conduct of shipowners.

Allan Tabingo was a deckhand aboard F/V AMERICAN TRIUMPH when the accident occurred. After fish are brought aboard the vessel, a hatch is opened on the deck so that deckhands can shovel the fish through the hatch for processing. To move the last of the fish from the deck into the hatch, a deckhand must get down on all-fours and push the remaining fish through the hatch using their hands. Tabingo was on his knees gathering the fish when another deckhand began closing the hatch. The deckhand realized that Allan Tabingo’s hand was in danger, and tried to stop the hatch from closing. The handle on the hydraulic control valve was broken and repeatedly popped out of the valve. The hatch closed on Tabingo’s hand, severing two of his fingers. The vessel operator had been aware of the broken control handle for two years prior to the incident, yet failed to repair it. In fact, the crew tied one end of a piece of line around the handle and the other end to the ship’s rail so that when the handled popped out, it would not fall overboard. Alan Tabingo suffered the amputation of two fingers and the loss of his livelihood.

Tabingo filed suit in King County Superior Court against the vessel operator, American Seafoods. He asserted Jones Act negligence and general maritime law unseaworthiness claims. The punitive damages claim was based on the precedent setting 2009 Supreme Court of the United States ruling in Atlantic Sounding v. Townsend. The trial judge decided that punitive damages did not apply and dismissed Tabingo’s claim. Tabingo appealed to the State of Washington Supreme Court.

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HandXRay-300x262Allan Tabingo was injured at sea due to defective machinery on his employer’s fishing vessel.  A hydraulic lever controlling a fish hatch had been defective for two years. When the hatch operator tried to activate the hydraulic lever to stop the hatch from closing, the handle on the lever popped out of the valve. The hatch could not be stopped.  The result was a traumatic hand injury and the loss of a father’s livelihood. The accident could have been prevented had American Seafoods simply repaired the handle when it was found to be defective two years earlier.

On January 17, 2017, lawyers in the case of Allan Tabingo vs. American Triumph LLC argued in the Washington State Supreme Court the question of whether an injured seaman may recover punitive damages when injured on an unseaworthy vessel?  You can view the arguments here. Originally denied at the trial court, this case was chosen for a fast track (“interlocutory”) appeal and sent to the Washington State Supreme Court due to the importance of this issue for injured fishermen and seamen.

The Jones Act and Maritime Law already provide for Compensatory Damages.  An injured seaman may recover a monetary amount necessary to replace what was lost due to his/her injury. Compensatory Damages usually cover:

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Rscue-300x199Two weeks of Coast Guard hearings and testimonies this past month are slowly revealing the mystery behind the July 26th sinking of the Alaska JURIS that forced 46 crewmembers to abandon ship in the Bering Sea. Chief Engineer aboard the JURIS, Eddie Hernandez, was a key witness for Coast Guard attempts to reveal operations of the vessel’s owner, Fishing Company of Alaska. The company teams with a Japanese fish buyer, Anyo Fisheries, and continues to operate three factory trawlers whose crews process and freeze catch.

This is not the first time that Fishing Company of Alaska has been at the center of a major Coast Guard inquiry. In fact, many issues that surfaced during the Alaska JURIS hearings paralleled the 2008 sinking of FCA’s Alaska Ranger. In both instances, there were reported gaps in a Coast Guard inspection program, chronic vessel maintenance issues, and safety conflicts between a U.S. crew and Japanese workers.

Although the report on the Alaska JURIS is not expected for months, the hearings offered a look at conditions and operations aboard the vessel. Crewmember Carl Lee Jones revealed in testimony problems surrounding rusting pipes, run down crew quarters, and Japanese crew members who refused to participate in safety drills.

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Stacey-and-Jacobsen-CroppedIf you are a maritime worker or commercial fisherman, 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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Hank William Hoskins Sr. of Whatcom County died on October 26, 2016, after a scuba diving accident at Gooseberry Point near Sucia Island.

According to Bellingham Fire Department Assistant Chief Bill Hewett, the diver’s oxygen supply was cut off due to an apparent equipment malfunction at approximately 4 p.m.

It was reported by the boat crew that Mr. Hoskins, who was diving for sea urchins, had been underwater for about 5 minutes before being pulled aboard. He was rushed by boat about 10 miles east of Sucia Island to Gooseberry Point, where aid crews helped bring him ashore. Mr. Hoskins could not be revived. He was 40 years old.

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LakeCrescentCoastGuardStudents and chaperones from Stevens Middle School in Port Angeles, Washington were rescued from Camp David Jr. on Crescent Lake by the U.S. Coast Guard on Friday, October 14th.  According to the Coast Guard, Sector Puget Sound received a call at approximately 3:45 p.m. reporting that 40 kids and 6 adults were stranded without power in a cabin at the popular Clallam County Camp. Due to high winds and fallen trees, David Junior Road was impassable by vehicle, blocking all access to U.S. Highway 101.

The Coast Guard responded quickly, assisted by deputies from the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office.

“With that amount of kids there, and the fact that emergency services could only get to them by boat, the decision was made to go out there and boat them over before the major storm hit on Saturday,” said Clallam County Chief Criminal Deputy Brian King.

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2 Sailor Cold BayTwo sailors arrived in Kodiak on Wednesday, September 28th, 2016 seeking medical treatment due to the sinking of the sailboat Rafiki.

The men were sailing 230 miles south of Cold Bay, in 7 mph winds and 6-foot seas, when the engine compartment began to fill with water. They contacted Coast Guard 14th District in Honolulu, who transferred the call to Coast Guard 17th District in Juneau.  The Rising Sun, a nearby vessel, was diverted toward the Rafiki as backup.  The sailors were instructed to activate and remain with their EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon), and with the vessel, until evacuation was absolutely necessary.

A HC-130 Hercules long-range aircraft arrived promptly at the scene and dropped survival suits to the sailors, who were then rescued by a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter for transport to Sand Point. There, the Hercules picked them up for transport to the hospital.

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Earnest Tug Boat
The Oregon State Department of Environmental Quality and the US Coast Guard responded to an 82-foot sunken tug at 8:49pm on the evening of Sunday, September 25th. The Earnest, a wooden-hulled vessel, sank on the Columbia River in Goble, OR. The incident was reported via the National Response Center.

Divers from Ballard Diving were contracted by the Incident Management Division in Portland to assess and address any fuel or other sources of pollution which may have been present after the sinking.

Clay Jonak, the owner of the Earnest, reported the vessel was carrying approximately 100 gallons of residual diesel fuel when it sank in Columbia County. Several other older tugs and barges are owned by Jonak, which he is attempting to salvage and scrap.

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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.