Portland is Maine’s biggest city and is home to the state’s most important port as well. Run by the Port Authority of Maine, along with the Ports of Searsport and Eastport, Portland’s terminals see more oil come and go than all but one other east coast port. In addition to cargo shipping, the port includes ferries, cruise ships, commercial fishing vessels, and recreational boats.
Ports are busy and industrious workplaces, but they are also dangerous workplaces. If you work in the Port of Portland you have a job that is exciting, physically demanding, and probably pretty lucrative. The same goes if you are a seaman working on one of the many ships coming and going from the port. The risks for some people outweigh the benefits of the job when accidents lead to tragedies. Heavy cargo, big machinery like container cranes, toxic liquid cargo, trucks and forklifts, and the water itself, all pose threats to those who work in the maritime industry, in Portland and in other locations. If you get hurt on the job, let a Portland, Maine maritime lawyer help you get the compensation owed to you under the law.
The Port of Portland, Maine
Not to be confused with the Port of Portland in Oregon, this is the busiest and biggest port in the state of Maine. Historically, this location became important as a harbor and port because it is protected from the weather and the naturally rough waters off the coast of Maine. Unlike other spots on the coast, Portland has decent weather and the water here never ices over in the winter. With deep water in the harbor, it is the ideal spot for a port and is a center for cargo shipping, recreational boating, commercial fishing, ferry lines, and even a few cruise ships.
Cargo shipping is the biggest industry in the port and oil is the number one commodity. Nearly 23 million tons of oil passes through the Port of Portland each year and the location not only includes berths for oil tankers, but also temporary storage, rail service, and an oil pipeline. The port is the second biggest importer and exporter of oil on the east coast of the U.S.
Portland’s Maritime Accidents
The Port of Portland can be a dangerous place to work and accidents, like at any other port, are all too common. These accidents can cause injuries ranging from mild cuts and scrapes to broken bones, head and neck injuries, back injuries, and in the worst cases may lead to fatalities. It isn’t just the port area that is hazardous. The waters leading into any port are crowded, busy, difficult to navigate, and conducive to collisions and other accidents. Waters further offshore are also dangerous for seamen working on ships and commercial fishing vessels. The northern waters off the coast of Maine are notoriously rough, especially in the winter.
In February, 2012, two fishermen experienced just how scary it can get out on the waters off the coast of Portland. Just the two men manned the fishing vessel and were working to drain water from the fish tanks on board when they broke a pipe. This led to flooding on the boat, which they were unable to get under control. Luckily for them they were rescued and both escaped injury, but it must have been frightening to know that the boat was going down and the end result could have been much worse. The boat ultimately sank about ten miles off the coast.
Another offshore accident occurred in the Portland port area in 1996. A Liberian tanker crashed into the Million Dollar Bridge on its way into a terminal at the Port of Portland. In striking the bridge, the ship was damaged and over 170,000 gallons of oil spilled into the water, creating a major environmental disaster. Although no one was injured or killed in the accident, both the ship and the bridge were damaged extensively. Part of the reason for the accident was that the span of the bridge through which the ship had to pass was only 95 feet wide while the ship was 85 feet wide. Squeezing through was a major challenge. Also blamed was a miscommunication of the ship’s operator to the crew.
Accidents also happen on dry land, in the port. In one such accident, a ship captain suffered injuries severe enough that he died from them a few months later. The captain was coordinating the unloading of cargo when a piece of machinery, weighing more than one ton, struck him. The part slid out of place because of a crane that moved in a way that was not expected. The large piece of metal pinned the captain against a railing. He had to have a leg amputated and had to go through a total of 22 surgeries before finally succumbing to his injuries. The captain’s widow sued for damages, citing negligence on the part of the employers responsible for the crane.
Legal Rights for Maritime Workers
In the maritime industry, both in Portland and in other locations, work is dangerous on a daily basis. Just one small error in judgment or miscommunication can have disastrous consequences. From the large cranes operating in the port to the possibility of ship collisions or sinking, accidents are always possible. In the worst cases these accidents lead to fatalities, but even when they don’t, injuries can be severe enough to keep a worker off the job for days, weeks, and even months. The costs of being hurt at work can be astronomical.
To protect workers in this dangerous industry, federal maritime laws include the right to sue for compensation. This money can help injured workers pay for medical expenses, pay ordinary expenses until they can go back to work, and even cover punitive damages. Surviving dependents can also sue for this kind of compensation. If you have been injured on the job, a Portland, Maine maritime lawyer can help you get that compensation. Without this expert to help you, it is easy to make mistakes or to settle for less than what you are owed. To get everything you need to get back on your feet, rely on this law professional to guide you.