New Hampshire is a small state, sparsely populated, and yet it plays an important role in the maritime industry. As one of the earliest areas of settlement by European colonists, this area has a very long maritime history and a very old harbor at the Port of New Hampshire in Portsmouth. The coastline of New Hampshire may be short, but this port is a major one and it provides services for cargo shipping, container shipping, recreational boating, commercial fishing, and even cruise lines dock their ships here.
If you live and work in the state’s maritime industry, you may find yourself in need of a New Hampshire maritime lawyer. The industry is full of dangers for workers and accidents can happen at any time. When these accidents do occur, whether on the ships or in the port area, they can lead to serious injuries and even deaths. If you find yourself injured after a maritime accident you may be facing skyrocketing medical bills and no income if you can’t go back to work. A lawyer experienced in maritime law can help you figure out what steps you need to take to ensure you get the monetary compensation that will ensure you can get back on your feet, get well again, and get back to work.
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New Hampshire’s Maritime Industry
The Port at the city of Portsmouth is New Hampshire’s only port, situated near the mouth of the Pistacagua River. In spite of the northern location, this port stays ice free throughout the winter and serves cargo and container ships, cruise lines, fishermen, and recreational boaters year round. Portsmouth is not just the site of an important harbor and port; it’s also the state’s earliest settlement and capital. It lies close to Maine, just across the state line on the other side of the river. The first village settled here on the river was in 1630 and today the port is an industrious and recreational center as well as a historic site visited by tourists.
The Port at Portsmouth is officially known as the Port of New Hampshire. The main terminal here handles bulk cargo, break bulk, containers, and project cargo. This is the only public terminal in the port that handles general cargo. With international ships coming into harbor, the port is a designated Foreign Trade Zone. In addition to the cargo terminal, there are private terminals, docking for commercial fishing vessels and a number of spots for recreational and passenger vessels. These include ferries, whale watching boats, cruise ships, charter fishing boats, and party fishing boats.
The Dangers of Maritime Work
If you work in the Port of New Hampshire or on any of the many boats and ships that dock here, you have a job that is both exciting and lucrative. It is also dangerous. Accidents in the maritime industry occur more often than in any other type of workplace. Among the most dangerous of maritime jobs is commercial fishing. Many commercial fishermen make Portsmouth their home base. If you are one of them, you face daily workplace hazards like the risk of falling overboard, being on a sinking vessel out at sea, experiencing hypothermia in bad weather, or getting injured on the fishing equipment used on the boat.
Other types of seamen also face daily hazards on the job. Cargo and container shipping can be dangerous out at sea where rough weather and waters can cause even these big ships to sink. Even more of a risk is sometimes the cargo. When it isn’t stored correctly, shifts in the ship can cause it to move and strike workers, causing serious injuries. Collisions are also often a problem for big ships, especially when coming into and leaving from ports. The crowded waterways, even when navigated by skilled local pilots, can be dangerous.
Workers in the port area also face serious dangers on the job. Ports like that at Portsmouth in New Hampshire, are busy and crowded workplaces. There are a lot of big, moving parts that require equipment maintenance, worker training, and good communication to flow smoothly. When any one of these fails, cranes, forklifts, trucks, and cargo can become major hazard that either injures or kills workers. Other dangers include falls into the water, falls into cargo holds on ships, falls from platforms, fires, electrical shocks, and exposure to toxic chemicals.
Port of New Hampshire Accidents
One major recent accident that occurred in Portsmouth was in 2013 when a ship struck and seriously damaged the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge. A tanker carrying tallow oil had been docked and moored in the port when it broke free and drifted into the bridge. The large, 473-foot tanker was pulled upriver by a strong current, and although the crew did its best to use an anchor to stop the ship, the momentum was too great. The damage to the bridge numbered in the millions of dollars and it had to be closed for a significant period of time.
The ship was also damaged, with a gash in its side, which amounted to about one million dollars in damage. Both officials from Maine and New Hampshire sued the owner of the ship for the damage to the bridge. No one was hurt in the incident. After an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board, fault was found to lie with the captain and pilot of the tanker. It was found that they did not correctly moor the ship to the dock considering the tidal conditions.
Legal Rights and Resources for New Hampshire Maritime Workers
Maritime workers have very specialized, skilled jobs that are more dangerous than those in many other industries. To compensate for the added risk of death and injury on the job, federal maritime laws provide ways for workers to seek money after an incident. For instance, if you are injured on the job and can’t go back to work for several weeks, one of these laws should be an avenue for you to seek money for your medical bills and for the lost wages until you can get back to work. Not all employers are willing to cough up the money that workers are owed after accidents, which is why these laws are in place to guarantee rights.
If you are a seaman, working aboard a commercial fishing boat, a tanker, or another type of cargo ship, you may qualify for money under the Jones Act. This law provides you with a way to sue your employer for the money you are owed after an accident, as long as you can prove that negligence played at least a small role in the incident. If you work in the port, you may qualify as a longshoreman under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. If you do, you can use this law to get access to a workers’ compensation program after an accident.
All of these laws also provide similar rights and benefits to your loved ones in the tragic event that you die on the job in New Hampshire. If your employer is not willing to give you what you deserve, you may need to use these laws to fight back. A New Hampshire maritime lawyer can be your greatest ally in this fight. Your lawyer can represent you, get wins for you in arbitration, and make sure you take all the rights steps to avoid losing out on the money you need to get back on your feet and on the job again.