Boat on the sea
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Cold-Bay-USCG-1024x520A 25-year-old man was airlifted by the U.S. Coast Guard from the 107-foot fishing vessel Bering Hunter after he fell and suffered a head injury.

Watchstanders at the 17th Coast Guard District command center received a call from the captain of the vessel, stating that a crewmember had fallen and sustained a head injury. The Coast Guard duty flight surgeon recommended the medevac, and a Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew was dispatched to the Bering Hunter location.

“Having assets forward deployed to Cold Bay during the winter fishing season allows our crews to respond quickly,” said Lt. J.G. Rian Ellis, a 17th district watchstander. “We are able to eliminate hours of flight time in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands, ensuring the safety of mariners.”

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https://www.maritimeinjurylawyersblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/155/2018/02/U.S.-Coast-Guard-Helicopter-300x163.jpgThe North Coast commercial crab season is off to an arduous start, as the U.S. Coast Guard oversaw two search-and-rescue missions this weekend. The search for one missing crabber who fell overboard has sadly been suspended.

Shortly after 1 a.m. on Sunday, February 4th, two crew members who were tending crab pots on the Chief Joseph fell overboard. The vessel was approximately eight miles south of the South Spit in Humboldt Bay when the accident occurred. The captain successfully pulled one fisherman back aboard but was unable to locate the other crewmember.

First on the scene was an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Air Station Humboldt Bay followed by a 47-foot Motor Lifeboat crew from Station Humboldt Bay. Approximately an hour later, a C-27 Spartan fixed-wing aircraft from Air Station Sacramento arrived, and the area was combed until the search was suspended at approximately 1:15 p.m.

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Sunnfjord1280x960-300x225Five fishermen were rescued by the US Coast Guard after their vessel began taking on water west of Cape Alava, Washington.

Watchstanders were alerted to the situation on Wednesday, January 31st at 1:15 p.m. The 87-foot F/V Sunnfjord was taking on water, however, dewatering pumps were unable to keep up with the rising water. Good Samaritan vessels Island Voyager and Equinox responded to the distress call in addition to Coast Guard cutters Cuttyhunk and Swordfish. An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station/Sector Field Office Port Angeles, a Motor Life Boat from Station Quillayute River, and a Motor Life Boat from Station Neah Bay were also part of the response team. Watch the video of this heroic rescue.

As the water rose in the engine room, fishermen donned survival suits and life jackets. The helicopter crew initially planned to pick up and deliverer another dewatering pump, but as the situation grew dire, they refueled at Neah Bay then traveled directly to the F/V Sunnfjord.

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cold-bay-alaskax1800-1In an effort to reduce response times during the winter commercial fishing season, the U.S Coast Guard is making good use of a “forward operating location” in Cold Bay. It was a busy week for the U.S. Coast Guard, 17th District Alaska, as they rescued a total of 4 maritime workers from various fishing vessels in the Cold Bay area this week.

On January 23rd, a Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew (forward deployed to Cold Bay) medevaced two men from two different fishing vessels in one heroic trip.

A 21-year-old man aboard F/V Ocean Peace was suffering from sea sickness and loss of consciousness when watchstanders at the 17th Coast Guard District command received the call. Sea sickness a common issue for seamen and fishermen, and the dehydration that accompanies it can be very serious. The Jayhawk helicopter crew hoisted the 21-year-old man at approximately 5 p.m., then picked up a 37-year-old man with a hip injury from the F/V Northern Patriot. Both men were safely transported and received medical treatment.

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Shipwreck-1024x683In a precedent-setting case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has ruled that injured fishermen and seamen are indeed entitled to punitive damages under maritime law unseaworthiness guidelines. In reaching this decision in the case of Batterton v. Dutra Group, the Ninth Circuit Court referenced the outcome of several cases, including Tabingo v. American Triumph LLC, a landmark case handled by Stacey and Jacobsen, PLLC, in the Washington State Supreme Court (read about this case here). The court found that if a shipowner acts “recklessly” and creates an unseaworthy condition, the injured seaman may sue for punitive damages in addition to damages for lost income, pain and suffering, retraining costs, and all other damages.

Batterton Case Background

Christopher Batterton was a deckhand working aboard a vessel owned and operated by Dutra Group. His left hand was crushed when a hatch cover blew open. As air was pumped into a compartment below, the pressure rose to dangerous levels. This accident was directly caused by the absence of an exhaust system. With no exhaust system, the vessel was deemed “unseaworthy”. Batterton sued the vessel owner and sought punitive damages in addition to other damages. The injuries sustained in that accident caused permanent disability to Batterton and took away his livelihood.

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capstan_deck_winchOne of the most dangerous pieces of equipment on any fishing vessel is the winch; drum winch, capstan and/or cathead. So many accidents and fatalities have been caused by winch entanglements, that in 2012 the US Coast Guard teamed up with NIOSH after the tragic death of a 15-year-old boy. The boy was killed when his clothing became caught in a winch on a shrimp boat. The accident set in motion a project to study these types of accidents and find solutions.

According to Ted Teske, a Health Communications Specialist with NIOSH, a fisherman who is caught and pulled into the winch has no way to stop the equipment. This is because the turn-off switch is mounted on the back of the wheelhouse, far from the winch and the entanglement. Unless someone is at the controls and can swiftly turn off the winch, it will spin several times before stopping.

Teske helped develop a simple device called an E-Stop, or “emergency stop”, that is accessible to a seaman who is caught or entangled in the winch. This simple device interrupts the flow of hydraulic fluid to the winch during an emergency. The E-Stop mounts right on top of the winch. If a fisherman is caught and pulled into harm’s way, the button is within reach. The entangled worker simply hits the button to stop the winch. The system can easily be reset by a crewmember after detanglment. The kit is easy to install, and the company provides all the materials needed, including a custom button, templates, and the cutting heads needed to cut through the winch horn.

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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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1280px-Scanning_electron_micrograph_of_Methicillin-resistant_Staphylococcus_aureus_MRSA_and_a_dead_Human_neutrophil_-_NIAIDWhen we hear or see the term MRSA, we think of outbreaks in hospitals and nursing homes. But MRSA can be a problem anyplace people work and live in close quarters. According to the CDC, one in three people carries staph bacteria. It lives on the skin and in the nose. The CDC also reports that approximately one in 50 people carry MRSA. In the United States, cases of MRSA are responsible for about 90,000 serious infections and over 18,000 deaths per year. Infections should not be ignored, as they can spread quickly to cause pneumonia, bloodstream infections, sepsis, and in very serious cases, loss of limbs or death.

What is MRSA?

MRSA is short for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, or any strain of staph bacteria that has become resistant to antibiotics. The very same class of antibiotics that were once used to treat these infections are no longer effective due to the mutation of the bacteria.

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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.”