Port jobs can be extremely dangerous, with moving equipment and cargo and so many different things to coordinate. When just one thing goes wrong, the consequences can be serious. This was the case recently in the Port of Houston, when the body of a longshoreman was found. The incident is under investigation, but it is thought that the man was crushed by a falling object.
Accident During Cargo Operations
On the morning of Tuesday, March 28, the body of a longshore worker in the Port of Houston was found in the cargo hold of the bulk carrier, Grebe. The results of an ongoing investigation should uncover exactly what happened, but early reports from local media outlets suggest that the man was crushed to death by a falling object.
According to the maritime consulting firm, Blueoceana, the victim was a member of International Longshoremen’s Association Local 24, and his name was Francisco Montoya. The ship, the Grebe, according to Blueoceana, was sitting at City Dock 20 on its sixth day of discharging cargo. Workers at hatch number four were using an on-ship crane to take out six-inch diameter steel pipe bundles. It is thought that one of the bundles slipped and caused two other bundles of pipes to fall over and strike Montoya.
More details are likely to emerge later about the incident, but the ultimate cause may have been the way the steel pipe bundles were loaded and stored. There may have been other factors, such as plywood dunnage between the stored bundles that was not strong enough to support them, or some type of worker or crane error. The true cause remains to be seen, but the consequences are undeniably tragic.
Risks and Accidents in Ports
There are so many ways that accidents can happen, especially in large, busy ports like Houston. The March 2018 accident follows another fatal tragedy the year before, when a worker was struck and killed by a crane. Ports are busy and filled with big equipment and heavy cargo. There are trucks moving cargo, cranes lifting and moving cargo, and workers going from ship to shore and back again. Communication between all these moving parts is important but challenging.
A type of port accident that is too common is likely what happened to the longshoreman in March. Falling cargo poses a big risk to workers. Incidents like these can occur when cargo isn’t stored properly, when supports are not strong enough, when workers are not communicating as they move cargo, when cranes fail in some way, or when ships collide with something and cargo shifts and even falls.
Cargo accidents like these are fatal in the worst case scenario. When they aren’t fatal they can still cause serious harm, from head and neck injuries to paralysis, broken bones, lacerations, and chronic back pain. The most recent incident is just one of too many instances in which longshore workers are placed in dangerous situations and put at risk. The industry has safety guidelines and measures, but just one little detail out of place or one mistake by one worker can lead to something as devastating as this tragedy.