Portland is one of the biggest and busiest port cities in the country, and it sits well away from the Pacific Coast, which means boats have to navigate far up the Columbia River. The port is responsible for bringing in a lot of cargo from container ships and getting it onto trains for shipment across the continent. Likewise, cargo makes its way onto ships here and gets sent out to the rest of the world. In addition to cargo shipping the Port of Portland is home to commercial fishing and tourist vessels.
Many of the jobs that are needed to keep the port running and that are done on the ships that come in and out of the port are dangerous. From the river bar pilots who navigate the dangerous waters of the Columbia River to the longshoreman moving cargo around to the commercial fishermen bringing in the catch, jobs in the Portland maritime industry come with inherent risks. If you work in any of these or numerous other maritime jobs you may find yourself injured from a work accident, and if you do, maritime lawyers in Portland are ready and available to help you get the money you need to get back on your feet.
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The Port of Portland
Many ships set sail from the coast of Oregon, setting out to fish and crab, to send containers overseas, or to take tourists out for travel and recreation. One of the largest and busiest ports in the country is the Port of Portland. There are several terminals here, well in from the coast along the Columbia and Willamette Rivers. Millions of tons of cargo move through the port every year, including a significant portion of international cargo. The port is connected to trains that move cargo out and in to be dispersed or put on ships. To get to the port, ships must navigate the treacherous Columbia River bar, where the rough waters of the river meet the ocean’s currents.
The port is also home to tourist vessels, river boats and cruise ships that take passengers up the Columbia and Willamette Rivers or that stop here on the way up to Seattle and Alaska. There are other types of recreational boats coming into port as well, from recreational fishing tour boats to whale watching cruises. All of these different kinds of boats and industries make their way into this important port on a daily basis and contribute to the number of people that have to be employed to keep it all running.
Examples of Maritime Accidents
Working in any position and in any location in the maritime industry means you face daily hazards. If you work on a ship most of the time you are at risk of falling overboard, of being exposed to toxic cargo, to becoming the victim of a ship fire, or of being struck and injured by heavy equipment from winches to fish processing equipment. If you work in the port you also face similar risks, like falling into the water, being injured by the huge cranes that lift cargo on and off ships, and even being hit by the trucks and forklifts that crisscross the port. Being a victim of one of these accidents is frustrating, but especially when precautions should have been taken to prevent it.
Actual examples of accidents occurring in the port and off the coast near Portland are numerous. Some are true accidents, but many are caused by negligence and should not have happened if the right precautionary steps had been taken by responsible employers. One example occurred in 2013 when a 600-ton crane collapsed and fell in the port. Fortunately there were no injuries, although rescue teams were called in just in case someone had been trapped under the crane.
Another example of an accident that occurred in the area happened in 2008. A tourist boat that took passengers up and down the Columbia River caught fire. Passengers and crew were rescued, but a crew member suffered mild injuries from hypothermia. It is not uncommon for people to end up going overboard when a boat catches fire, and that can lead to exposure injuries and even drownings. In this particular case, lives were saved because the boat owner had installed a fire alarm system, but a failure in the engine that caused the fire could have bene prevented.
Portland’s River Bar Pilots
Of all the maritime jobs that workers do in the Portland area, that of the river bar pilot is by far the most dangerous and accident prone. These are the highly-skilled workers who take over control of ships going in and out of port to navigate the dangerous waters of the Columbia River bar. The bar is an area where a river meets ocean currents, and it always results in dangerous waters, but the bar of the Columbia River is the roughest in the world.
River bar pilots must be master pilots, trained for years to navigate these rough waters in dangerous weather. Even with all that training, pilots are often victims of weather and water. For example, in 2006 a pilot fell from a ladder as he was moving from the pilot boat to the ship to be navigated through the bar. This is a common, but difficult maneuver for bar pilots, and although this pilot had been wearing his safety gear, he quickly became lost in the waves and could not be rescued. This is one of too many examples of a fatal accident in the maritime industry.
In a similar example, another bar pilot was luckier. She fell in a similar situation, moving from a ship she had successfully piloted back to the pilot vessel using a ladder that was tricky and risky to navigate. She was luckily able to be rescued immediately, even though it was night time and dark. When it comes to river bar piloting, accidents are common, even when all precautions are taken. It is a job that can lead to tragedy with even the smallest mistakes or errors in judgment.
Portland Maritime Lawyers
Working in the maritime industry anywhere is dangerous. Working in the Port of Portland or on a ship that comes into the port regularly comes with risks, which are exacerbated by mistakes and negligence. Whether you can pinpoint blame for an accident you experienced on the job or not, you are entitled to the money that will help you get medical treatment and get back to work. As a seaman you can count on the Jones Act to ensure you win compensation from your employer when negligence is involved. On the other hand, if you work in the port area, the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act may help you get money.
Regardless of your situation, figuring out where to turn next and how to get the money you need can be confusing. Instead of trying to do it on your own, you can and should rely on the professional experience of a maritime lawyer in Portland. This is someone who is knowledgeable about the laws and has the experience to help you file claims, win compensation from arbitrations or even go to trial as your representation.