Houston is one of the largest cities in the U.S. and part of the state of Texas’s long Gulf coast, which is cut through with miles of canals. In fact, the Port of Houston is one of the largest ports in the country and is responsible for more cargo by weight than any other U.S. port. There is one cruise terminal because the vast majority of the port is dedicated to container and cargo shipping and trade. Goods from Houston go out to ports around the world, and ships from many other countries come into dock here and unload cargo for further distribution.
Ports are busy and dangerous places for the people who work in them. If you work at the Port of Houston you face risks on the job and the possibility of accidents that could leave you injured, ill, or even dead. If you are facing these kinds of on-the-job risks, you need to know that federal maritime laws are in place to ensure you get the money you need to get back on your feet after an accident. To help you navigate the system of laws, depend on a Houston maritime lawyer.
The Port of Houston
Of the 18 ports in the state of Texas, the Port of Houston is the biggest and busiest. It’s also one of the biggest and most important ports in the country and takes in and exports more cargo by ton than any other. The port is mostly dedicated to cargo and container shipping, but there is one cruise terminal here. The port spans 25 miles and leads all other ports in handling breakbulk cargo.
Each year the Port of Houston sees over 8,000 shipping vessels and more than 200 million tons of cargo. In addition to the public shipping terminals there are 150 different private companies operating in the port and it contributes to over one million jobs in the state. The Bayport cruise terminal is a modern facility and the starting point for cruise ships in the Princess and Norwegian cruise lines.
Maritime Accidents in Houston
Not far from Houston, in the smaller Port of Texas City, the Houston area saw its most disastrous accident in 1947. A French cargo ship exploded because of an onboard fire that overheated the large cargo of highly-explosive ammonium nitrate fertilizer. The explosion killed several hundred people, even though the ship had been evacuated. It was such a large explosion that people in the port were killed and thousands more were injured.
Not all of the accidents that have occurred in and around Houston are as devastating as a big explosion. There are many smaller incidents that occur all too often, causing damage, injuries, and sometimes even fatalities for workers. One example occurred in 2015 when a worker fell into the cargo hold of a ship. He had to be removed with a crane and carried to the hospital to receive treatment for serious injuries. In another incident a barge ran into an electrical tower, which could have caused serious electrical injuries, but thankfully did not. Instead it cost money by shutting down the shipping channel while repairs were made.
Houston’s port has also seen its fair share of pilot-related accidents. All boats coming into the port must hire a local pilot to navigate up the channel and into the port. Pilots have very dangerous jobs and have to move ships through the narrow channel and past other ships moving through the same channel. Accidents are bound to happen, but too often these are preventable accidents caused by miscommunications and pilot error. For example, a big collision occurred in 2001 when a pilot did not communicate to a passing ship that he was coming and he was piloting the ship too fast for the conditions in the water. The collision didn’t injure anyone, but it did result in a major cargo spill that polluted the water.
Collisions also occur that do hurt people, including one that happened as a ship came into the port and struck a bridge over the canal. It was a crane on top of the ship that hit the bridge, and the captain of the ship should have known that it would not clear the overpass. Several people, in vehicles on the bridge at the time were seriously injured, but nobody was killed. A lot of damage was done to the bridge as well.
Legal Rights for Houston Maritime Workers
The jobs of maritime workers are dangerous, as the above examples illustrate. There are so many ways in which shipping, navigation, and loading and unloading of cargo can go wrong with disastrous consequences. From malfunctioning container cranes that drop their heavy loads to toxic chemical spills to falls into the water or onto hard surfaces, and everything else that can go wrong, maritime jobs are dangerous. Accidents may lead to minor injuries, major injuries, life-altering injuries, and even fatalities. And, if you have been in one of these accidents and have felt the repercussions, you have a right to compensation.
To help you get that compensation you need to rely on the assistance of a professional, someone experienced in helping other maritime workers get the money they were owed. Maritime law is there to protect you, but it isn’t easy to navigate the many laws that apply to different types of workers and different situations. You may need to go up against your employer or an insurance company, which will be much easier if you have a Houston maritime lawyer on your side. With someone like this you can get all of the money you are owed and which is crucial to getting well again and back to work.