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New York Maritime Law Blog

How can the risk of maritime accidents be lowered?

A lot of factors can contribute to maritime accidents, which in many cases can be avoided by taking the proper steps. Understanding these factors is crucial to prevent future accidents, while also ensuring that workers aboard sea-faring vessels have the right information to keep themselves safe. In this case, The Maritime Executive offers the following methods for preventing accidents and preserving lives. 

Conditions can change rapidly on the water. A strong current is just one example of a hazardous condition that puts people's lives in danger. That's why it's so important to stay abreast of changing conditions and to make the right choices when it comes to mitigating risk. Checking in with the Coast Guard is key in this case, as they'll be able to provide advice on how to proceed. Also, once the danger has been properly assessed, the crew must make the proper maneuvers to prevent a serious accident from occurring. 

What are some myths about boating and alcohol?

Most people consider boating a fun and relaxing endeavor, which means alcohol often finds its way aboard sea-faring vessels. The truth is, drinking and boating are extremely dangerous, as they can cause serious injuries or even legal problems. MADD debunks some of the myths surrounding boating and drinking. 

Boating while intoxicated is illegal. Just like when driving, operating a boat with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher will get you arrested. Additionally, the type of boat you're operating won't spare you trouble. Even if you're in a boat without a motor, you can still be cited and arrested if you're caught. Additionally, multiple local and federal officials routinely take to the water in search of inebriated boaters, so your chances of being apprehended are pretty high. 

Will we see autonomous ships soon?

You’ve read about automakers refining their driverless automobiles over the next five years. Over that time, you’ve heard a lot about the safety and liability issues surrounding autonomous vehicles. Despite several setbacks, it’s likely to see more of these vehicles on the road within the next decade.

In the same vein, autonomous ships are likely the next wave in shipping technology. A future with autonomous ships could arrive sooner than you think. Some say unmanned ships could set sail in the next year. Some Norwegian vessels have already received approval to sail for testing in local waters with a human monitoring the controls.

What are the safety standards for barges?

When it comes to maritime safety, the preferred method of operations will always be working to avoiding an accident as opposed to responding to one. Accidents on the water can produce devastating consequences, even those that occur on barges who typically do not venture out into open water. Indeed, the United States Department of Labor has established safety measures through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that address the proper treatment of you and your fellow barge workers. 

The most basic (yet arguably most important) is the requirement that each barge maintain basic safety equipment. Per OSHA's regulations, each barge must be outfitted with the following: 

  • Well-secured ramps and walkways that allow you to safely step from the barge to an adjoining wharf, float, towboat or another barge
  • Jacob's ladders of either the double-rung or flat-tread type that can either be retracted and redeployed or remain hanging without slack
  • Steps between the bulwark and the deck with a handrail at least 33 inches high (for vessels on which the upper means of access is flush with the bulwark)
  • At least one U.S. Coast-Guard approved 30-inch lifering with at least 90 feet of rope attached, along with a portable or permanent ladder which will reach the top of the apron to the surface of the water
  • Basic first-aid and lifesaving equipment

Staying safe when you are working on an oil platform

If you are working in and around boats in New York, you are exposed to many unique risks that have to be carefully navigated to prevent unnecessary injuries from happening. At Tabak, Mellusi & Shisha LLP, we are committed to being advocates for people who have been involved in boating accidents. 

As part of your preparation for working on an oil platform around large boats, you should receive adequate training that educates you about how to manage the risks you are exposed to. You should also be informed of the protocols you should take if one of your coworkers is involved in an accident and emergency help is required. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, you should receive specialized training about the safety practices that your employer has implemented for the following areas:

  • Handling hazardous chemicals and transferring them between work stations. 
  • Working near power sources, including specific instructions on how to shut the power off in an emergency. 
  • Preventing fires from igniting by properly handling specific tasks. 
  • Preventing falls from occurring by removing hazards, eliminating clutter and wearing proper footwear. 

Loss of consortium and the Longshore Act

Those in Manhattan who work in the maritime industry likely understand that the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act offers them financial assistance if and when they are injured on the job. Yet exactly how far do those benefits extend. Oftentimes, a maritime accident affects not only the accident victim, but their families as well. The effect of an injury may make it impossible for one to enjoy the same type of relationship with family members again (particularly with their spouses). In such a case, are there benefits made available to a maritime worker's spouse. 

The loss of emotional companionship and physical affection is (according to the Cornell Law School) referred to as "loss of consortium." Such compensation is typically referred to as "non-pecuniary damages," in that their value cannot be easily quantified. For example, an exact monetary value can be assigned to how much one owes in medical bills or lost wages. However, how much one's relationship with their spouse is worth may be open to interpretation. Many tort cases allow for the awarding of non-pecuniary damages. Claims made under the Longshore Act, however, typically do not. 

Man thrown into river as boat crosses another's wake

It is easy for Manhattan residents to draw the distinction between travelling by boat as opposed to a car. A much greater sense of security may be felt in a boat given that so many people drive cars (thus increasing the chances of being involved in an accident). Yet it is that relative sense of isolation that can make boating so dangerous. Often, the boar operators (especially those operating small boats and pleasure craft) can forget that there are craft out on the water, and that the potential hazards that other boats pose can be dangerous

This was evidenced in a recent boating accident that occurred in Louisiana. Two men were traveling on a river in a small fiberglass boat when the driver cut across the wake left by another craft. Officials say that doing caused the boat to shift violently, throwing its passenger overboard. The man was not wearing a flotation device, and he quickly went under. His body was recovered by rescuers some time later. His official cause of death has yet to be determined. 

Do maritime lawsuits have jurisdictions?

There's something about the sea that draws people to it. There are some who feel the need to spend a lifetime working on the water, whether fishing on a charter boat, working on board a cruise ship or serving in the military on a battleship. The fact of the matter is, the ocean is unpredictable, and situations can arise that result in legal disputes and litigation.

Maritime law — also known as admiralty law — establishes the rules and regulations for life on the water. Jurisdiction, in particular, can be complex when it comes to applying maritime law to specific cases, as a person's nationality and their location at the time of the incident can play a role in how the case can be disputed legally.

Oyster Bay boating excursion ends in injury

Buying a boat can bring with it years of fun experiences on New York's many waterways. It also brings an inherent responsibility to ensure that anyone riding on it or participating in water sports around it knows proper safety procedures. The unique complexities of boating accidents often make them particularly dangerous compared to incidents that occur on dry land. Difficulty in getting a boating accident victim immediate treatment is the chief among these. The different types of accidents that can occur on the water also can contribute to more severe outcomes. 

Initial reports show that such an outcome may have thankfully been avoided in a recent accident that occurred out on Oyster Bay. A woman was reportedly cut by a boat propeller while participating in Memorial Day festivities. Exactly what activity she was involved in that led to her injury was unreported. What is known is that the injury occurred to her arm and was significant enough to cause her to lose consciousness. First responders were preparing to airlift her to a local hospital, yet she regained alertness and was able to respond to rescuers, prompting them to instead take her for treatment by land. 

Maritime accidents and mental trauma

There are a number of ways in which people make a living at sea, whether they work on a cruise ship or are employed in the fishing industry. Unfortunately, there are many things that can go wrong in these environments and job-related injuries occur far too often. Not only can these accidents result in a significant amount of physical pain and financial hardship, but they can also cause other difficulties which may be more difficult to detect, such as mental trauma. Those recovering from a maritime accident may suffer from depression or anxiety, and these mental challenges can be very debilitating.

In some instances, those involved in a maritime accident may develop post-traumatic stress disorder. In fact, the mental and emotional toll of a maritime accident may be so serious that someone is not able to continue working in a particular field, prompting them to look for a new line of work that pays less. These mental difficulties can create all sorts of other problems in someone's life, whether they lead to the breakdown of a marriage or changes to one's personality. Sometimes, mental trauma is not apparent right away, and people do not fully realize the mental toll of an accident until a later time.

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