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Articles Posted in Recent Maritime News

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On Friday, November 7, 2014, the National Weather Service Ocean Prediction Center recorded the central pressure of post-tropical Nuri at 924 mb over the Bering Sea. On November 9, however, Hurricane Central reported that the storm’s lowest pressure was 929.8. For reference, Hurricane Andrew’s pressure was 922, and Hurricane Sandy’s was 940. Whether the pressure was 924 or 929, the post-tropical Nuri/Bering Sea storm is one of the largest Northern Pacific storms on record.

From north to south, the massive storm covered 2000 miles from 68 N latitude to 40 N latitude. Hurricane force winds with gusts of 96 mph and 30-50′ waves were recorded. The Coast Guard in Kodiak reported that no damage or distress calls had been received as of 8 a.m. Saturday. That good news is probably because the storm was much publicized and because most of the storm hit open sea. Most fishing boats headed into Dutch Harbor and cargo ships gave the area a wide berth to avoid the storm. Small villages such as Adak and Attu on the southwestern end of the Aleutian chain are not strangers to strong storms and effectively battened down the hatches against the storm.

Did any “Deadliest Catch” boats brave the storm? We shall see.

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A 134-foot barge is drifting in the Beaufort Sea and may be headed towards Prudhoe Bay after its towline snapped in Canadian waters during a severe storm Monday. The unmanned barge, carrying 950 gallons of diesel fuel, broke free from the tugboat towing it and began drifting west with the wind into US waters. The fuel tanks on board seem to be intact and there is no evidence of discharge. The barge’s owner, Northern Transportation Corporation Limited, (NTCL) notified the Canadian Coast Guard, who immediately issued a Notice to Shipping to advise mariners operating in the Arctic. NTCL is a Canadian marine operator and barging company.

The US Coast Guard is sending out an aircraft to determine the barge’s exact location and figure out where it’s heading and how fast. They’re also trying to figure out how to retrieve the barge.

Commander Shawn Decker, US Coast Guard Chief of Response, Sector Anchorage said it could be difficult because ice is forming fast on the Beaufort Sea, and officials have very few vessel options to retrieve the barge.

“We have a long history of working with our Canadian partners to accomplish these joint environmental protection missions,” said Commander Shawn Decker. “As the barge’s owner and Canadian coast guard forces continue to respond, we will stand by to assist in mitigating any possible environmental impact.”

Weather on scene is reported as 40 mph winds and 12-foot seas.
UPDATE BELOW: DRIFTING BARGE LIKELY TO SPEND WINTER IN BEAUFORT SEA ICE

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On Thursday night, October 17, 2014, the 440′ Russian container ship SIMUSHIR lost power in heavy winds and rough water off Haida Gwaii, also known as the Queen Charlotte Islands, while sailing from Everett, WA to Russia. SIMUSHIR was carrying 298 containers of mining equipment and chemicals as well as 450 tons of fuel. Drifting helplessly, it could have hit the rocky shores, broken apart, and created an international environmental disaster.

The ship drifted without power from Thursday night until Friday night. Canadian Coast Guard cutter GORDON REID then arrived and secured a line on the ship, according to officials with the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Victoria. The SIMUSHIR’S captain was evacuated by helicopter with an unknown condition, and the 10 remaining crew stayed on board trying to restart the engine.

The GORDON REID slowly towed the disabled ship due west away from Haida Gwaii’s coastline. On Saturday, October 19, the GORDON REID’s towline parted and the SIMUSHIR was once again adrift. Other Canadian and American Coast Guard cutters had arrived by then, so they tried securing a line to the ship. Twice they tried; twice their lines parted. It is difficult to tow a huge container ship, but a fully-fitted oceangoing rescue tug can properly assist. The American tug BARBARA FOSS, based in Neah Bay, WA, came to the rescue.

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Friday morning, the crew of purse seiner VERNON contacted the Coast Guard with the news that they had a foot of water in their engine room. This happened near Ketchikan, Alaska, in seas of two feet with 10 mph winds. The Coast Guard sent out two boats in response. A Coast Guard team with four dewatering pump were able stabilize the flooding enough to escort VERNON back to port. The cause of the flooding is under investigation.

VERNON appears to be home ported in Seattle, with owners based in Renton, Washington. This vessel is wooden-hulled and built in 1920.

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Ferry Boats are a frequent sight on Puget Sound, so much so that they seem an integral part of the seascape. They work day and night to transport passengers and vehicles between the east and west shores of Puget Sound, throughout the San Juan Islands, and around various smaller ports.

If you are less than sixty years old and grew up in the area, there’s a chance you are still riding on some of the same ferries you enjoyed as a kid. There is a feeling of nostalgia in that, but these Evergreen State Class ferries are nearing the end of their lives. Thus, the Washington State Department of Transportation has ordered four new Olympic Class 144-car/1,500 person ferries. TOKITAE is the first of these, due to begin the Clinton-Mukilteo run this June.

This new class of ferry will be versatile like the Issaquah Class ferries, and safer with wider, less angled stair cases and state-of-the-art emergency evacuation systems. It will also better comply with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements thanks to two elevators.
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AUGUST 30, 2013
Only one of seven crewmen survived the March 24, 2009 sinking of the scallop fishing vessel LADY MARY. The United States Coast Guard has now released their comprehensive report into the sinking of the vessel, concluding that a combination of safety problems contributed to the vessel’s sinking and the crewmen’s deaths.

The Coast Guard determined that sometime in the early morning hours the crew of the LADY MARY removed the lazarette hatch to utilize an electric pump to dewater the lazarette compartment located in the stern of the vessel. Underwater photographs of the sunken vessel showed the lazarette hatch open with a dewatering hose coming out of the transom and discharging over the transom. When the pump was being utilized, the lazarette hatch could not be closed. The Coast Guard concluded that it was probable the LADY MARY’s lazarette flooded through this open hatch, which then allowed water to board the vessel up the transom. Two of the LADY MARY’s four deck scuppers were improperly blocked with metal plates. The blocking of the scuppers allowed waves coming aboard the vessel to be trapped between the deck’s bulkworks. The combination of these factors, according to the Coast Guard, led to progressive down flooding of the vessel and loss of stability.
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Beard Stacey & Jacobsen, PLLC has established a landmark decision for an injured seaman before the Washington State Supreme Court. The ruling yesterday declares that there is no pre-established arbitrary cap on a seaman’s right to punitive damages for the wrongful withholding of maintenance and cure benefits.

Accepting Dana Clausen’s team of lawyers’ arguments, the Washington State Supreme Court denied Icicle Seafoods’ attempt to cap a seaman’s right to punitive damages. In Clausen v. Icicle Seafoods, Inc., Case No. 85200-6, the Washington Supreme Court upheld a jury verdict of 1.3 million dollars in punitive damages against Icicle. The jury found Icicle’s conduct in refusing to pay the injured seaman’s medical bills and maintenance in an amount of $35,000 to be willful, wanton and malicious conduct, and that it was financially motivated. The Court rejected Icicle’s argument that the Supreme Court’s decision in the Exxon Valdez case required that there be a one-to-one ratio of compensatory damages to punitive damages. The Washington Supreme Court stated the policy and purpose of punitive damages is to punish and deter egregious conduct and rejected Icicle’s argument that punitive damages should be capped based upon the size of the underlying claim. The Court noted that, because of Icicle’s conduct, Clausen, who had suffered a back injury in a lifting accident aboard Icicle’s vessel, had been forced into poverty and was forced to move into a broken down wreck of a travel trailer while trying to live on just a $20 a day living allowance.
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During the night of January 13, 2012, the 955-foot Italian-flagged COSTA CONCORDIA struck a rock and capsized near the coast of Giglio, Italy, resulting in great loss of property and life, including two Americans presumed dead. This tragedy has renewed focus on cruise ship safety and the rights of cruise ship passengers, particularly pertaining to the matter of legal jurisdiction, especially given the number of multinational passengers. Modern cruise ships are often referred to as floating cities now due to their enormous size, carrying thousands of passengers and crew.

A cruise ship ticket is also known as a “cruise ticket contract.” What makes a contract valid are four points: offer, acceptance, free will to enter the contract relationship, and equitable consideration. Those entering a contract are assumed to be aware of and in agreement with the contract details, and a court will usually uphold a contract which has met all the legal criteria. The exchange of consideration, such as exchanging money for a cruise ticket, touches on all four points of a valid contractual agreement between parties. The cruise ticket contract wording, in what most of us would call the fine print, is said to be on the ticket and is otherwise accessible to passengers. On the Costa web site, passengers are encouraged to read their cruise ticket contract. By purchasing the ticket, a passenger has arguably entered a contract and agreed to the conditions therein, which include a series of limitations and waivers in case of dispute. It does state that Costa will be liable for its negligence. The caveat is, any negligence must be proven by the claimant in court.
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BACKGROUND
In the matter of Samson Ili vs. American Seafoods Company, LLC, and American Triumph, LCC, et al, a Washington Federal trial case, Samson Ili worked as a factory processor aboard F/T AMERICAN TRIUMPH for four years until February 9, 2007, the date of his injury. AMERICAN TRIUMPH is part of the American Seafoods Company (ASC) fleet. He had received favorable work reviews during that time. His work duty consisted mainly of manually lifting and transferring pans of frozen fish from a plate freezer to a moving conveyor belt. The pans of fish weigh between 50 and 75 pounds each. This was often done while the ship was rolling, making balance an ongoing issue. There were no handrails or stable areas on which to lean, so Mr. Ili had fallen a few times over the years during unpredictable seas. Typically, Mr. Ili would take a wide stance, adjusting foot position as needed to compensate for the rolling of the ship.
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The Coast Guard in San Francisco received a distress call from the crew of the 31-foot commercial fishing vessel TWO SONS, Wednesday, July 20, about eight miles west of the Golden Gate Bridge. Reports informed the Coast Guard that the vessel was taking on water with two people on board. The boat operator reported that the rate of flooding far exceeded the rate at which the crew could discharge the water from the vessel using the onboard dewatering equipment.
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