Alabama has a short, but significant coast line. With the natural deep water harbor at Mobile Bay and up the Mobile River, the state has a strategic location for the maritime industry of the Gulf of Mexico. Where the Mobile River enters the Bay is the Port of Mobile, the state’s only deep water port and one of the largest ports in the country in terms of tons of cargo. With access to railways, interstates, and the waterways that connect it to the Great Lakes, and Ohio and Tennessee River valleys, this is a busy shipping port.
The state of Alabama has multiple small ports, inland on waterways, but the Port of Mobile is the only large port that handles cargo. If you work here or on the ships that come in and out of the port, you should know that you have certain legal rights. Maritime workers have special protection under the law in case of injury or death on the job. You can rely on an Alabama maritime lawyer to help you sort through the laws in the event that you are the victim of a workplace accident. This professional could mean the difference between getting the money you need to get back on your feet and getting nothing at all.
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Although there are many small ports throughout the state, the real industry happens at the Port of Mobile. In 2010, the port was the 12th largest in the country by tons of cargo. In 2014 nearly 30 million tons of cargo moved through the port, including over 200,000 containers. The public terminals in the port are operated under the control of the Alabama State Port Authority. These terminals are set up to handle containers, break bulk, bulk, roll-on/roll-off and other types of heavy cargo. In addition to the public terminals, there are also some that are privately owned and operated.
The most common types of imported cargo to Mobile include containers, iron, steel, aluminum, lumber, plywood, paper, cement, and chemicals. The port also imports more coal than most others in the country. Major exports include oversized cargo, containers, lumber, coal, flooring, frozen poultry, iron, steel, and soybeans. The Port of Mobile ranks number one in ports in the country for breakbulk lumber. There are also berths for cruise ships here.
Maritime Accidents in Alabama
The Port of Mobile, as a busy and industrious maritime port, is a dangerous place to work, even when everything is done correctly. One small incident can turn into a huge accident with big repercussions, from damage to equipment to injured workers, and even fatalities. These workplace accidents are largely preventable, which makes them all the more tragic. With enough training, good communication, good decision making by workers, and equipment maintenance, many accidents could have been avoided.
One such tragic accident occurred in September of 2013 when worker Dustin Rogers was killed after being struck by heavy cargo. Rogers had been working in the cargo hold of a bulk carrier ship docked in Mobile when the accident happened. A crane operator was lifting 3,000-pound steel railroad tracks into the ship when one fell into the hold. Rogers was hit by the heavy track and died. Investigations did not immediately find any negligence, but workers who witnessed the incident claimed it was just a true accident.
Other tragic port accidents occurred just a few months before the cargo loading incident, in the spring of 2013. Several explosions on barges occurred and severely injured three workers employed by the Oil Recovery Company. The barges had been carrying liquefied natural gas. Three weeks before that, one worker received injuries and another died when a guard shack was knocked into the Mobile River when an unmoored cruise ship struck a nearby, docked ship. The men had been working inside it at the time. One man was saved, but the other, missing for a few days, was finally found to have drowned.
The cruise ship in question, Carnival’s Triumph, was infamous initially for stranding passengers for five days in the Gulf of Mexico, with no power or plumbing. As it was moored in the port it caused the tragic accident that killed one worker in the guard shack. The large cruise ship was being repaired at dock in the Mobile River when a wind caused it to come unmoored. The ship drifted across the river and collided with another docked ship. All workers on board at the time were accounted for and uninjured.
With its position on the Gulf of Mexico, Alabama is an important point of origin for commercial fishermen, who work in one of the most dangerous of all maritime industries. In 2013, a commercial fishing vessel off the coast of Alabama sank in the Gulf after its engines failed. Without being able to control it, waves caused the boat to take on water. Despite the crew’s best efforts, it sank, although no one was injured or killed in the incident. Investigations found the oil storage tanks to be contaminated. The sinking could have been avoided with better maintenance.
Legal Resources for Maritime Workers in Alabama
If you are fortunate enough to have a steady job in Alabama’s maritime industry, you have much to be thankful for. On the other hand, you work in an industry that is full of daily risks. If you get injured on the job, how will you pay your medical bills or other bills if you can’t get back to work right away? The good news is that you have laws in place to protect you. If you get hurt on the job either in the port or on a ship, there is a law that gives you the chance to get the money you need to get back on your feet.
To help you figure out what that law is, and how to utilize it to get your much-needed compensation, you should rely on the expertise of an Alabama maritime lawyer. A professional who has studied the law can help you figure out what steps to take next and how to do everything right so you don’t jeopardize your chances at getting that money. A lawyer can also help you through an arbitration or court trial if your case goes that far. Contact a maritime lawyer today to make sure you get your rights.