Most often known as just Maersk, A.P. Moeller-Maersk Group is a Danish conglomerate with reach and operations in several sectors, including oil and gas, transportation, and specialty training. For maritime work, Maersk is most known for container shipping. Maersk has faced several incidents and controversies, most famously having ships hijacked by pirates.
The A.P. Moeller-Maersk multinational company began as a shipping company in Denmark in 1904. The founders were a captain, Peter Maersk-Moeller, and his son Arnold Peter Moeller.
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Early on, the shipping company relied on steamships, but by the 1920s, diesel ships were added to the fleet.
Soon after tankers were added and the Maersk Line, today’s modern container shipping business had its beginning. Over the years, the company kept growing until it became the biggest shipper in the world.
Maersk Line is the container shipping division. It includes the shipping of containers worldwide and the logistics needed in the terminals and ports served by Maersk’s ships.
This is the biggest of Maersk’s divisions and is responsible for most of the company’s revenue. Although the company has been engaged in shipping since the beginning, the start of the Maersk line officially dates back to 1928.
The Maersk Line division is the largest shipping company globally with a truly global reach. It employs over 30,000 people, with around 7,000 working on the ships as seamen.
The fleet includes over 600 vessels and can hold nearly 3 million TEU of cargo. The company has nearly 400 offices in over 100 countries around the world.
Maersk Safety Policies
As the biggest container shipper in the world, Maersk has a lot to be concerned about regarding its workers’ safety. Although container ships are large and mostly stable, the seamen who work aboard them still face many risks, as do all the workers in ports who handle the shipping containers.
Maersk Line instituted a “Drive to Zero” initiative with the lofty goal of having no lost-time accidents and zero oil spills. It claims to have 1,000 days free of lost-time accidents on several ships.
Maersk conducts what it calls Safety Boot Camps to ensure a culture of safety aboard its ships. This includes:
- Leadership training and training in good communication
- Vessel analysis for finding potential problems before they become accidents
- Job safety analysis
- Auditors who conduct regular safety analyses regularly on its ships
Maersk and Pirates
With large ships carrying cargo, some of it very valuable worldwide, modern piracy is a genuine safety concern in the maritime industry.
Seamen face several grave dangers on the job, but one that can be surprising to hear about is being boarded and threatened by pirates. The public became aware of the risk because of a piracy incident that occurred with a Maersk ship in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Somalia.
A crew of 23 aboard the Maersk Alabama, a ship carrying 17,000 metric tons of container cargo, was headed for a port in Kenya when four young pirates attacked the ship on April 8, 2009.
The pirate bell rang, and 14 crew members made it to a safe and secure room; the remaining crew sent out emergency flares, but the pirates still managed to board the ship.
Maersk had trained its staff, including this crew, in anti-piracy strategies, and the crew had even had a pirate drill the day before the actual situation occurred.
The Maersk Alabama and its crew’s rescue came from the U.S. Navy on April 12 after a siege that started on the ninth. The ship’s captain, Captain Phillips, was taken hostage by the pirates on a lifeboat on the first day of the incident.
Ultimately the U.S. Navy killed the three pirates in the lifeboat, and the captain was rescued and was not seriously injured.
What the famous movie that told the story of Captain Phillips did not relay is that the crew of the ship, most of whom were Americans, believed that Maersk was negligent in the piracy incident.
They claim that the company intentionally steered them into waters they knew to be infested with pirates. Those crew members included the captain in the blame, claiming he also knew of the risk but went into the area anyway. The crew filed lawsuits after the incident, which was settled by Maersk, but the terms remain confidential.
Other Safety Incidents
Piracy is not the only safety concern for workers aboard Maersk container ships. Any accident that can occur with a ship may occur with a container ship.
Collision with German Ship
For instance, in May 2016, a Maersk container ship collided with a German container ship offshore from China. The incident left the ship without power, on fire, and with a big gash in the side. Luckily the crew was not hurt, and although the ship took on water, it could be safely towed to shore.
Ship Seizure by Iran
In 2015, another Maersk ship called the Tigris, was seized by Iran in the Strait of Hormuz at the entrance to the Persian Gulf. The Iranian government claimed to have seized it due to a dispute between Maersk and an Iranian company.
That company accused Maersk of defaulting on what it owed. That controversial claim put Maersk workers at risk. While detaining the ship, Iranians fired shots, which could have hurt or killed innocent workers aboard.
Maritime Law and Injured Workers
Maersk has taken some risks with its employees and ships and stirred up controversy over the years, but it also takes safety seriously. As a maritime worker, you should know your rights and your employer’s responsibilities to keep you as safe as possible.
If you are hurt aboard a container ship, you have recourse to seek compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses, including pain and suffering.
If you are the loved one of someone who dies aboard a ship while working, you also have these rights. Whether negligence can be proven or not, you have a right to compensation if injured doing this hazardous work. Let a maritime lawyer help guide you through the process.