Texas is home to a many ports along its Gulf of Mexico coast as well as in the many canals that crisscross the coast. With so many major ports, it’s no wonder the state has a thriving maritime industry. Galveston is just one of the many ports, but is among the largest and busiest. The Port of Galveston has shipping and cargo terminals, but is better known as a cruise ship point of origin. More than one million cruise passengers embark here every year for trips to the Caribbean.
If you work in the Port of Galveston or on one of the many cruise ships or cargo ships that come into the terminals, you work in a thriving and lucrative industry. This is also a dangerous industry that sees many accidents every year. Galveston maritime lawyers are available and have the expertise to help you if you are injured on the job, either in the port or on a ship out at sea.
The Port of Galveston
The busy Port of Galveston is a major tourist destination. The coastal town itself draws in visitors for beachside retreats, but people also come here to set off on cruises to the Caribbean. Nearly 200 cruise ships set out from the port in 2013 with more than one million passengers coming and going. The revenue from the cruise industry here is over $10 million per year.
As a shipping port, Galveston is also a major center of industry. Over 300 cargo ships come into the port every year, accounting for almost five million tons of goods. In addition to the cruise ships and cargo and container ships, the port is also home to scientific research vessels. Boats heading out to conduct research in the Gulf, the Caribbean and beyond start here.
The Dangers of Maritime Work
Jobs in the Port of Galveston range from stevedores and longshoremen moving cargo to and from ships, to cruise line employees helping passengers in the terminal, to truck drivers, electricians, maintenance workers, and more. It is a busy workplace with many different jobs and many dangers. One major danger in a port is the possibility of being struck by a large piece of equipment. For instance, the cranes used to lift cargo can become deadly if operated incorrectly or if broken. They may tip over, drop pieces or drop large containers that can hurt or kill nearby workers.
Falls are also a big risk in a busy port. Workers may fall from walkways going to and from ships. They may fall from cranes and personnel platforms. They may simply trip and fall over obstacles in this crowded work environment. Another issue can be exposure to toxic chemicals. Liquid cargo may be toxic and if moved or stored incorrectly, can lead to dangerous exposures.
Working on the ships that come into the port is also dangerous. The smaller research vessels that leave from Galveston are more susceptible to bad weather and rough waters, which can cause capsizing, falls overboard, and injuries caused by shifting and tilting. Workers on any kind of ship may face the dangers of malfunctioning equipment, bad weather, fires, electrical problems, capsizing, or collisions with objects of other ships.
As a major port for cargo and cruises, Galveston has seen its fair share of accidents and incidents that have caused environmental problems, injuries to workers, and even deaths. With so much going on in one port and the risks and dangers inherent in working on a ship, accidents are common. On the other hand, many of these accidents could and should have been prevented if only the right precautions had been taken.
A major disaster occurred on a ship in 1990. A Norwegian tanker, called the MV Mega Borg, experienced a big explosion when workers transferred petroleum cargo to another ship about 57 miles out in the Gulf from the Port of Galveston. The explosion caused fires on the ship as well as a large oil spill into the Gulf waters. It was a major environmental disaster, but the incident also led to the death of two workers and injuries for 17 others.
In nearby Texas City in 1947, the worst maritime accident in the history of the state occurred when a ship carrying ammonium nitrate fertilizer exploded. A fire in the engine room got out of control and heated the fertilizer to a point at which it became explosive. The explosion was so large that it killed hundreds of people in the port. Thousands were injured and the sound of the explosion could be heard 250 miles away in Louisiana.
The port area itself is also an area that is prone to accidents that cause injuries. In 2014 a large crane used for lifting cargo broke and injured four workers. The crane operator was lifting a piece of a wind tower from a ship that weighed 60 tons when the crane broke. There was some kind of malfunction in the crane which may have been related to the weight of the load.
In the waters off ports like Galveston, it can be crowded. Lack of communication between ships is serious and can lead to collisions like the one that occurred in 2014. A local pilot was bringing in a large cargo ship when it collided with a barge carrying oil. No one was hurt, but the collision led to a major oil spill, with more than 150,000 gallons leaking into the water. Both visibility and communication likely played roles in the accident. Local pilots had agreed to close the port that day due to fog, but one pilot decided to bring a ship in anyway. The barge captain claimed that the pilot did not communicate his position.
Legal Resources for Galveston Workers
Workers who are injured on the job in the maritime industry have a right to compensation thanks to maritime laws. It’s not always easy to get that compensation, especially when employers and their insurance companies do everything they can to deny workers that money. If you have been injured in the port or on a ship, you can rely on a Galveston maritime lawyer to help you fight that battle. A good lawyer can help you decide which laws apply to you and your situation, file a claim, get all the paperwork completed correctly and on time, and can represent you in arbitration and trials.