Tampa Bay is a bustling, major city in the state of Florida with a strategic position on the Gulf coast. It is the perfect spot for commercial fishing boats to head out into the Gulf, for container ships to come and go with cargo, and for cruise ships to dock and take on passengers for trips to the Caribbean. The area is so popular as a shipping, fishing, and tourist location that there are three major ports here: Port Tampa Bay, Port of St. Petersburg, and Port Manatee.
Jobs in the ports and on the ships that come into dock in the terminals are lucrative, but they are also difficult and dangerous. If you work in one of the Tampa area ports or you work on a ship that stops here, you take risks every day on the job. You put yourself in harm’s way to get the job done, to ensure that cargo gets to its destination, that seafood is available, and that tourists get their dream cruise vacations. Getting hurt on the job is a real possibility, and if you do, rely on a Tampa maritime lawyer to help you get the compensation you are owed.
The Ports of Tampa
Tampa is in an enviable position on the busy Gulf coast of Florida with a large, natural, and deep harbor. It is the perfect location for the maritime industry and for ships of all kinds to come into dock. Port Tampa bay has become such a busy and bustling port by leading the way in the state on bringing in and shipping out break-bulk and bulk cargos like steel, phosphate, and petroleum. The port also has a strong tradition of ship building. Tampa sees around 36 million tons of cargo each year and services nearly one million cruise passengers every year.
Port Manatee sits at the mouth of Tampa Bay and is a natural, deep water seaport. About eight million tons of cargo comes through the port each year and it is the second largest port facility in the U.S. for Del Monte produce. Produce is the number one cargo here, but Manatee also brings in petroleum products, cement, steel, and forestry products and exports juice, construction equipment, used vehicles and more.
On the south side of the Bay, the Port of St. Petersburg is a small, but growing port. It has been recently renovated and hopes to attract a different kind of clientele from the other ports. Port St. Pete, as it is nicknamed, may be bringing in more research vessels and recreational yachts, and even historical ships for educational purposes.
With such a strong maritime industry, it’s no wonder that the Tampa area has seen its share of maritime accidents. Working in a busy port is dangerous and working out at sea on a commercial fishing or shipping vessel is not any safer. From accidents caused by weather to equipment malfunctions, errors made by machinery operators, poorly maintained electrical systems, and lack of training, accidents are everywhere in the maritime industry and have multiple causes.
In 2012, an accident at the Port of Tampa illustrated how dangerous these port jobs can be and how devastating one accident can be. The worker, 56, was a stevedore from St. Petersburg and was killed in this terrible accident as a cargo crane lifting steel pipes fell. The victim and three other workers were in the cargo hold of a ship bundling up the pipes to be lifted from the ship by the crane. One of the straps used in bundling the pipes broke and the heavy steel came crashing down on the four men. While one worker died on the scene, one was injured and treated at a hospital and the other two escaped injury.
Another tragic and fatal accident occurred at Port Manatee, also in 2012. The Tampa resident, a stevedore, was unloading bananas from a ship when the basket from a cargo crane came down on him. The basket weighed in excess of 5,000 pounds. He died on the scene from being crushed by the heavy basket. How the accident occurred was not known, but it most likely could have been prevented.
Although heavy equipment like cranes are a major concern for port workers, these are not the only types of harm to which they are exposed. Toxic and poisonous cargo can also be a major issue. In the Port of Tampa in 2013, one worker died and several others were injured or made ill after being exposed to toxic hydrogen sulfide gas. The workers had been replacing pipes for the port’s waste water treatment plant when the gas leaked from the area.
Legal Rights for Maritime Workers
These examples are just a few of the possible ways in which maritime workers can be hurt or killed on the job. If you work in one of the area ports as a stevedore, longshoreman, ship builder, ship repairer, truck driver, crane operator, maintenance worker, electrician, or in any other role related to the industry, you have rights when it comes to accidents, injuries, and illnesses that you suffer on the job.
Most port workers qualify under the federal Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. This law provides injured workers with money to cover lost wages, medical bills, and other costs associated with the injury and an inability to get back to work. The dependents of those who die on the job are also entitled to compensation through the law.
Jobs on ships can be just as dangerous, if not more so, than the jobs that workers do in the port area. If you work on a commercial fishing vessel, a cruise ship, or a container ship, you may qualify as a seaman and be able to file a claim for compensation under the federal Jones Act. This law specifically applies to seamen and instances in which negligence has caused an accident and injury. Most of the common accidents that occur on ships and that injure workers are preventable. If your employer didn’t take the necessary steps to make your workplace safe, you can file a claim to get money that will help you get back on your feet and back on the job. If you die on the job, your loved ones are entitled to those same benefits.
Tampa Maritime Lawyers
If you have been injured in the Tampa area while working as a longshoreman, seaman, or other related job, you have legal rights to compensation. That doesn’t mean that money is always easy to get. Employers often deny compensation to injured workers and if you don’t know your rights, you may sign them away without realizing it. A maritime lawyer in Tampa can help you make sure you don’t make these mistakes and can help you fight your employer if you are being denied the damages that will put your life back together.
Let a maritime lawyer, with the expertise in the law that you don’t have, be your guide and your representative. This professional can face off against your lawyer and the insurance company to get you the compensation you are owed. If you try to go it alone you can easily get lost in the complicated system of laws, but with an expert on your side you have the best chance of success.