The maritime industry is an important source of economic trade and employment all throughout the country – and an unfortunately common source of accidents and injuries.
Cargo ships, a common sight among all of America’s waters from our rivers to our lakes, could be said to be the backbone of this industry as they remain one of the most efficient methods of transporting large amounts of consumer goods to their destinations.
Sadly, cargo ships also bring with them a number of potential hazards and dangers for anyone working aboard these vessels. The cargo itself can often be hazardous, and even if the products being transported are safe the vessel itself and the conditions they encounter can provide the potential for injury and damage along the way.
We’ve gone over five common cargo ship hazards, but when it comes to safety, a seaman’s job is never done. To make sure everyone involved knows what to look for, here are three more common hazards encountered aboard cargo ships – and in some cases, what you can do to avoid them.
- Inclement Weather: You can’t change the weather, but it doesn’t mean you still can’t be careful about how dangerous conditions can affect your voyage. Every year, hundreds of lives and vessels are lost to hurricanes, typhoons, tropical cyclones, and more. These storms can be enough to severely damage or even sink cargo vessels if proper care isn’t taken during transport. Remember to stay in contact with your land base and plot the most careful course possible around inclement weather while in navigation – the time saved isn’t worth the possible risk.
- Geographic Hazards: Weather comes and goes, but sometimes the ocean itself can present a danger for cargo ships. Geographical hazards include anything on the water that can harm vessels, such as high sandbars, coral reefs, icebergs, and any other area that is tough to navigate. While many advances in boat safety have been made since the tragedy of the Titanic in 1912, special care and precautions must be taken during any voyage through waters known for these hazards, and accidents involving things like sandbars and icebergs continue to plague the maritime industry and claim innocent lives to this day.
- Structural Damage: It is the ultimate duty of any shipowner to provide a safe place to work wherever the work takes them, but through neglect or damage sometimes the cargo ship itself can become its very own hazard. If cargo is stacked too heavily on a weakened platform, for example, it can cause the platform to break or become unusable. Attention must be paid to both the structural integrity of all platforms and containers used during a voyage, as well as the safety restrictions suggested by the cargo itself (weight limits, transportation recommendations, proper distribution of cargo throughout vessel, etc) to prevent damage.
These are but a few of the more common hazards encountered by cargo ships. If you or a loved one have been injured by these or other hazards while working onboard a cargo ship, the Jones Act attorneys of O’Bryan Law can help.