Florida is an important state to the maritime industry in the U.S. The state has mile after mile of Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico coastline. It is home to 14 different ports and it is home to more registered boats than any other state in the union, with over 900,000 registered in 2010. The maritime industry in Florida is made up of a diversity of types of boating too. There is cargo and container shipping, tourist and recreational boating, cruise ships, and commercial fishing, as well as boats and air taxis that take workers out to oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.
If you work in the maritime industry in Florida you may be a fisherman, a cruise ship worker, a seaman aboard a container ship, a longshoreman, or a tour boat captain, but whatever your job is, you take risks every day. The set of laws that make up federal maritime law can seem complicated, but they are there to protect workers like you and ensure you get compensation for injuries and illnesses. Florida maritime lawyers have the experience and training you need to help you get that money if you are the victim of a maritime workplace accident.
The Ports of Florida
There are many different types of water-based industries at work in the state from recreational and tourist businesses to international shipping and gas and oil refining. All of the vessels involved in these industries have to come in and out of Florida’s ports. With so many miles of coastline, the state has room for several ports. These include the ports of Pensacola, Panama City, St. Joe, Fernandina, Jacksonville, Canaveral, Fort Pierce, Palm Beach, Everglades, Miami, Key West, Manatee, St. Petersburg, and Tampa Bay.
Ports are major centers of traffic and industry with people working in a number of different jobs. There are commercial fishermen, stevedores, crane operators, fish processors, warehouse workers, ship builders and repairers, mechanics, electricians, truck drivers, ship captains, cruise ship crew members, and so many more coming, going, and working in the port area.
Common Maritime Accidents
Regardless of whether you work in a port, harbor, warehouse, or on a ship or boat, if you work in the maritime industry in Florida, you put yourself at risk of accidents, injuries, and illnesses every day on the job. The cruise ship industry, for instance, is huge in the state and crew members are at risk from trip or slip and fall accidents, walkway and ladder falls, falls overboard, harassment or assaults by passengers, and becoming ill on a ship when a virus or bacterial infection is spread among the passengers and crew.
On commercial fishing vessels, winches, conveyor belts, nets, trawls, and other types of heavy duty equipment are part of the everyday work experience and they can be dangerous. If one person on the boat isn’t trained properly to work with this equipment, if communication fails, or if the machinery hasn’t been properly maintained, you can become seriously injured in an accident. Seamen on board other types of ships face similar accident risks, and all seamen are at risk of falling overboard or capsizing in rough waters and dangerous weather.
Workers aboard ships are not the only ones in the maritime industry who face risks every day. Ports are dangerous places to work as well. Weather and rough waters are less of an issue, but port workers face becoming victims of accidents with cargo loading and unloading, large cranes, toxic chemicals, warehouse fires, and collisions with trucks, forklifts, and other types of machinery.
Examples of Accidents
Of the many dangers that ships face in and around Florida, weather is often a big one. Hurricanes are common in the waters off the state, and in 2015, a container ship, the El Faro, fell victim to one of these massive storms. The ship departed from the Port of Jacksonville as tropical storm Joaquin was forming over its route to Puerto Rico. After the ship left, the storm was upgraded to a hurricane. Communication from the ship ceased, and finally it was determined that it sank in the storm. The entire crew of 33 was lost in this tragic and unfortunate accident.
In a terrible example of a cruise ship accident, a worker lost his life while working on a Carnival cruise ship elevator. The ship left on a three-day cruise from Miami to the Caribbean. The electrician had been working inside the elevator shaft when the car moved and crushed him. More investigations will be needed to determine exactly what happened and who was to blame, but it is clear that the accident should have been prevented. Somehow communication broke down in this situation.
Another cruise ship accident that occurred in 2006 was less severe, but occurred on a larger scale. The ship, Crown Princess, had steering issues. When a crew officer tried to take over control of the steering, a too-hard turn resulted in violent shifting of passengers, cargo, and other parts of the ship. The result was 284 minor injuries and 14 more serious injuries to passengers and crew. The blame was found to be on the officer who misjudged the need to turn the ship.
Legal Rights for Injured Maritime Workers
All maritime workers in Florida are entitled to compensation after an on-the-job injury or illness. Dependents are also entitled to benefits when workers are killed on the job. Laws provide for such compensation whether or not there was negligence involved in the accident and whether or not you work on a ship, in a port, or on an oil rig or platform. If you get injured on the job, you will want to ensure you get the money that will cover your medical bills, your lost wages, and other related costs.
To help you get that compensation and get back on your feet, you will need the expertise of an experienced maritime lawyer. With good representation you can navigate the complicated system of maritime laws and be sure that you end up with all of the compensation to which you are entitled.