Maritime News

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Maritime injury news covers topics concerning [ Offshore Rigs and Platforms ], [ Ships, Tankers and Freighters ], [ Toxic Exposures ] and [ Tugboats and Barges ].

Latest News Articles

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Port of Mobile Accident Lawyer

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Maritime Injury Attorneys

The Port of Mobile is an extensive deep-water port In Mobile, Alabama and also serves as Alabama’s only deep-water port. According to the Army Corps of Engineers, the port is the 10th largest in the US by tonnage. A public port, its deepwater terminals connect to over 1500 intracoastal waterways. The public terminals handle various cargo loads such as containerized, bulk, and roll-on/roll-off.

The Port of Mobile is the largest break bulk forest products port in the United States, and one of the largest importing ports for coal. In 2015, the Port of Mobile handled 29.1 million tons including 237,266 containers. Due to the nature of the shipping industry, accidents can and do occur. The amount of traffic from ships creates dangerous scenarios in which ship to ship, ship to shore, and barge accidents and injuries are inevitable.

Loading and unloading cargo and containers from ships and heavy barges is dangerous work, the risk of injury is serious. The potential causes of injury can be endless from tug boat and barge collisions, crane accidents, fires, chemical leaks, explosions, lifting accidents, and exposure to toxic chemicals. These injuries can be serious and result in death.

When a worker is injured on a ship, barge, tugboat, or any other vessel in the Port of Mobile, they need to contact a lawyer as the worker may be entitled to relief under the Jones Act. This relief can include daily maintenance and medical care as well as other damages available under the Jones Act. When a third party other than the Jones Act employer may be negligent and/or the source of the injury or death, the third party employer may be liable as well. Additional negligent parties may be liable for the individual injuries under the General Maritime Laws available.

Port of Mobile Injury Lawyer

If you were injured on a ship, barge, or other vessel or while at work in a port terminal in the Port of Mobile, we are eager to help you. The choice of law available could include the Jones Act, Longshoremen, Harbor Workers Compensation Act or General Maritime Law. Additionally, worker’s comp may be available. Individuals who believe they may have a claim should contact an experience attorney to help maximize the damages and relief available to them.

David Willis is a Board Certified Personal Injury Trial Lawyer in Houston, Texas with over 30 years of experience handling accident cases and claims on intracoastal canals, ship channels, ports, docks, chemical plants, bays and other waterways across the country. Call the Willis Law Firm for a free consultation at 1-800-883-9858.

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Houston Ship Channel Accident Lawyer

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Houston Ship Channel Accident Lawyer

The channel of water that created the Houston Ship Channel was built by widening and dredging the Buffalo Bayou and the Upper Galveston Bay. The ship channel is part of the Port of Houston and has numerous terminals and berthing locations along its 45+ mile channel. The Houston Ship Channel connects the world to the mega petrochemical docks of Exxon Mobil Baytown Complex, Valero, Oxid, Kinder Morgan, Shell, Lyondell, Citgo, Phillips Chevron, Sunoco, Agrifos, SunEdison, BP, the Deer Park Chemical Complex, and major cargo container terminals of Barbour’s Cut and the Bayport Terminal.

While most of the tonnage going through the ship channel and upper Galveston Bay is petrochemical related, the channel is also an important hub for offloading foreign vehicles and cargo containers. With this incredibly large amount of traffic combined with the narrow nature of the channel itself, this lends itself to potential ship to ship, barge to barge and ship to shore accidents and injuries. While Houston and Harris County have been largely spared of any catastrophic accidents, there have been many tugboat – barge and ship accidents with terminals while docking. Additionally, due to the nature of the work loading and unloading cargo and containers from ships and the heavy barge traffic there comes the serious injuries related to numerous tug boat and barge collisions, crane accidents, lifting accidents, ship and barge fires, fuel and chemical leaks, fires and explosions and potentially deadly exposures to benzene and other cancer causing chemicals throughout the entire channel.

If a worker is injured while on a towboat, ship, barge, or vessel in the ship channel or in Galveston Bay, that worker would be entitled to the benefits afforded to him or her under the Jones Act. This includes daily maintenance and cure (medical care) and other legal damages. If the injured workers injuries were caused by a third party other than their Jones Act employer, then a third party lawsuit may be filed against the ship owner, product manufacturer, the crane operator or owner and/or other negligent parties under General Maritime Laws, negligence or other legal remedies available based on the location and facts of the injury.

Houston Ship Channel Injury Lawyer

If you were hurt on a ship, barge, vessel or a dock or terminal along the Houston Ship Channel, we are here to help you. With the many types of confusing maritime laws whether it be the General Maritime Law, the Jones Act, Longshoremen and Harbor Workers Compensation Act or straight Worker’s Comp, individuals should talk to an experienced maritime injury lawyer and find out what laws apply and have their lawyer help maximize the legal damages available for them. Mr. Willis is a Board Certified Personal Injury Trial Lawyer in Texas with over 30 years of experience in handling accident cases on canals, ship channels, bays, chemical plants, docks, waterways and rivers all over the nation. Call us 24/7 for a Free Consultation at 1-800-883-9858

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Fishing Boat Accidents

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Fishing Boat Accidents

Hundreds of crew members have died in fishing boat accidents across the country. In 1990, the Aleutian Enterprise sank in the Bering Sea, which took the lives of nine individuals. Eleven years later the Arctic Rose sank in the same area, claiming 15 lives. Most recently, a fishing vessel sank off the New Jersey coast taking the lives of six crew members and leaving only one survivor to provide the details of the frightening fishing accident.

Commercial fishermen have one of the most dangerous jobs in the country. Injuries on fishing boats usually fall under the Jones Act. When a crew member is injured on a fishing boat, he or she is entitled to compensation, known as maintenance and cure. This compensation is provided while the injured fisherman recovers from the injuries incurred while working on the vessel. The Jones Act also allows workers to collect damages for injuries caused by negligence or an unseaworthy vessel.

A Jones Act lawsuit that claims negligence or unseaworthiness can result in compensation for past and future medical expenses, past and future lost wages, pain and suffering, disfigurement, mental anguish and damages associated with the injury. The amount of damages available in a Jones Act case depends on the details of the accident and should be discussed with a fishing boat injury attorney.

Fishing boat injuries can vary and may include burns, head injury, spinal cord injury and neck injury. There are many causes of fishing boat injuries including slippery decks, bad weather, wire cable and winch injuries, rough weather or high seas, neck and back lifting accidents and defective equipment. Mistakes are often to blame for fishing boat accidents, which can lead to serious injuries, even death. Sometimes fishing boat injury cases involve the negligence of a third party, such as a contractor or someone who works for a different employer. A third party claim can be made in addition to a Jones Act claim.

Fishing boat accident cases can be complex and require the expertise of a Jones Act attorney. Contact our law firm today if you have been injured on a fishing boat. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The legal consultation is free and confidential.

Be aware that there are deadlines to file injury claims and if you wait too long, you could miss your opportunity. Therefore, don’t delay in pursing legal advice regarding your fishing boat injury.

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Fish Processing Boat Injuries

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Fish Processing Boat Injuries

While the dangers to crew members onboard commercial fishing boats seem obvious, many more serious injuries happen behind closed doors in the fish processing plants and processing boats. Many of these injuries are as a result of poorly maintained equipment, spoiled or poorly prepared or stored foods causing food poisoning, ecoli or listeria, infections from cuts and scrapes, poor lighting resulting in slips and falls, lifting injuries / back injuries, amputations and even death. Many fish processors lose parts of fingers from cutting accidents, traumatic amputations of hands from outdated machinery sometimes used without proper safety guards. Workers in the refrigeration units may be exposed to high pressure ammonia gas leaks. Ammonia inhalation can cause permanent lung damage and scarring, eye and cornea damage, brain damage and even death.

When injuries on a commercial fishing boat or fish processing boat occur, it is extremely important that an injury report or accident report is filed with the supervisor or shift leader and a copy is retained. The injured worker must document the time and place of the event and make sure to describe in the accident report what happened and how it should have been prevented. Names of witnesses along with phone numbers should also be included or at least gathered for future reference.

Injuries to commercial fishermen and fish processing plant workers on a boat, barge or vessel fall under the Jones Act. The injured worker is entitled to receive maintenance and cure benefits similar to workers compensation, but with many more additional damages available against the negligent employer. These Jones Act damages may include monetary compensation for past and future pain and suffering, lost earning capacity, loss of enjoyment of life lost wages, and medical expenses.

Under the weekly maintenance and cure benefits, the injured worker the employer (usually through an insurance carrier) is required to pay weekly wages until you have reached maximum medical improvement. If the employer refuses to pay maintenance and provide cure, then the worker has a new and separate cause of action they can file against them for this refusal including attorneys fees and punitive damages for this willful refusal to pay what is owed. The employer is also required to provide needed medical treatment to treat and cure the injury. If the employer refuses, another punitive claim may be filed as well. Lastly under the Jones Act, the injured fisherman or process worker is entitled to full wages until the end of the contract, not just the limited daily wages under maintenance.

Fishing Boat Injury? Talk to a Maritime Injury Attorney Now

Whether you work on a crab boat, a commercial fishing boat, fishing processing ship, trawler or working as a long-liner, deckhand, cook, mechanic, seiner, dredger, gill netter, dragger or working in any capacity on a fishing boat, you have legal rights to compensation under the Jones Act and numerous Maritime Injury laws affording you protection and remedy for your injuries and damages. Call and talk to a Maritime Personal Injury Lawyer about what can be done to protect your rights and maximize your recovery. Call us 24/7 at 1-800-883-9858.

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Kentucky River Accident & Injury Lawsuit

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Kentucky River Accident & Injury Lawsuit

Kentucky has over 1000 miles of navigable rivers and waterways. It is one of the most vast and complex river systems in the United States. In fact Kentucky is surrounded by rivers on three sides of the state with the Ohio River to its north, the Mississippi River to its west and the Big Sandy and Tug Fork Rivers to its east. Additionally Kentucky contains 3 more major river systems including the Cumberland, Green, Licking and the Tennessee Rivers.

Kentucky has twelve riverports including Hickman-Fulton County, Eddyville, Paducah-McCracken County, Henderson County, Louisville-Jefferson County, Owensboro and Greenup-Boyd County riverports and terminals. Of all of these, the Paducah-McCracken County Riverport Terminal is one of the nations busiest inland riverport and barge terminals in the Country.

Kentucky Barge Traffic and Accidents

With the vast miles of navigable rivers in Kentucky also comes the vast number of tug, barge & river accidents as well. Some of the major tug and barge operators in the state include: AEP River Operations, Crounse Corporation, Devall Commercial Barges, Henry Marine Service, Higman Marine Services, Inc, Ingram Barge Company, James Transportation LLC, Kirby Inland Marine Corporation, Magnolia Marine Transportation, Muscle Shoals Marine Service, Inc, Pine Bluff Sand and Gravel Company, Shapley Marine Company, Parker Towing Company, Southern Marine Construction Company, Volunteer Barge & Transport, W. L. Hailey & Company and Winn Marine.

While tug and barge traffic occupies most of the maritime traffic, some dredges, fishing boats, cargo type vessels, ferries and construction boats also navigate the waterways of Kentucky. No matter what type of vessel you are on, if you get injured then most likely you will be covered under the Jones Act Law. This Federal Statute provides compensation to seamen / crewmen injured while operating a vessel on navigable waters. If the crew member is sent ashore to assist in other duties and is injured or is traveling to another vessel or retrieving parts or supplies, then he also likely will be covered by the Jones Act. Workers at these terminals responsible for loading and unloading cargo from a barge or vessel and they get injured, then they may have rights under State Worker’s Compensation or under the Longshoremen and Harbor Workers Compensation Act. These laws for the injured worker can be confusing and this is where we can help guide you.

Tug and Barge River Accident Lawyer

If you have been injured on a ship, tug, barge or any vessel then call and speak to a maritime lawyer for a Free Confidential Case Consultation at 1-800-883-9858 or fill out our Online Form and we will get back with you usually within 1-12 hrs.

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Port of New Orleans Accident and Injury Attorney

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Port of New Orleans Lawyer

The Port of New Orleans is the major river port along the Lower Mississippi River and near the Intracoastal Canal System. It is a deep river port served by six railroad lines including BNSF, CN , CSX Intermodal, Norfolk Southern Railroad, Union Pacific Railroad, Kansas City Southern Lines and one local transportation rail line 26 miles long called the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad System. The Port of New Orleans handle many types of cargo including: coal, steel, oil, manufactured goods, grains and ocean containers and the port has many major cruise ships loading and unloading over 700,000 cruise ship passengers yearly. The port is equipped with heavy cranes, toploaders, sideloader, container cranes, trucking facilities and docks and 100’s of acres for trucks, trailers, raillines, bulk cargo and container storage.

Besides large ocean going cargo ships and passenger vessels, the tug and towboat traffic at the Port is busy handling over 50,000 barges per year as well. New Orleans also has another terminal and docks known as the Port of South Louisiana which handled 3 times more cargo and tonnage than the Port of New Orleans.

Barge Lines in Ports of New Orleans

As stated above the barge lines operating in the NOLO area are vast. They include Progressive Barge Line, LLC, Marquette Transportation Co., Marine Transportation and Towing Canal Barge Co., Blessey Marine Services, Inc., Dixie Marine, Harvey Gulf International Marine, C.F. Bean, AEP River Operations Crescent Towing, American Commercial Lines LLC , Guidry Brothers Towing Co., Tidewater Marine, Dixie Marine, Carline Management Company, Wood Dredging Company, Bean, Ingram Barge Company, Bisso Towboat Company, C & J Barge & Crane, Weeks Marine, Kirby Inland Marine, LeBeouf Bros. Towing, M&P Barge Co. , Florida Marine Transporters, Inc. and Coastal Marine Contractors, Inc.

River & Maritime Injury Lawsuits

Due to the very busy nature of this river system, port and docks often many serious injuries happen due to the negligence of co-workers, employers, ship and vessel companies, crane operators, and dock workers. If you become a victim of such negligent conduct you may have a right to file a legal action or lawsuit to recover for your injuries, losses and other damages. Whether you were working for a tug or tow boat company, cargo ship, freighter, fishing vessel, salvage or construction ship or barge, dredge, jackup rig, pipe lay barge or any other type of support vessel or ship, then your legal rights probably fall under the Jones Act. Other type of injuries on the docks loading or off-loading ships and cargo likely are covered by workers comp or the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA).

Inland Waterway & River Accident Injury Lawyer

If you were hurt on a ship, barge or vessel or on the docks, we are here to talk and help advise you of your legal options under the law. Talk to a maritime injury lawyer for free. Mr. Willis is a Board Certified Personal Injury Trial Lawyer in Texas with over 30 years of experience in handling accident cases on waterways, rivers all over the nation. Call for a Free Consultation at 1-800-883-9858 or tell us what happened online if your prefer.

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Paducah-McCracken Riverport Accident & Injury Lawyer

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Barge Lawyer

At the confluence of the Ohio and Tennesse Rivers is a major shipping and barge terminal known as the Paducah-McCracken Riverport. It is the only riverport and terminal at the confluence of the, the Ohio River, Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway and the Cumberland River, the Paducah-McCracken Riverport is less than 50 miles from the Mississippi River. It has crane, rail and truck service and is the nation’s most northern ice-free river port facility.

The location is ideal as it is centrally located for superior distribution with direct connections to the heartland of the United. This river port offers cargo handling, crane, bagging, storage and warehousing of bulk cargo, lumber, feed & seeds, petroleum products, sand, steel rolls and beams, pulpwood, coal gravels and SeaLand type of ocean going containers.

The Paducah Riverports has eighteen different barge and towboat companies providing service along the Paducah Riverfront including:

  • Ingram Barge Co.
  • Kirby Inland Marine
  • Bluegrass Marine
  • Hunter Marine
  • Excell Marine Corporation
  • James Marine
  • Luhr Brothers
  • Marquette Marine Transportation
  • American Commercial Lines

Barge & Tugboat Injury Lawyer

If you have been injured in the Paducah-McCracken Riverport area or along any river or waterway on a tug, towboat, barge, dredge, crane, ferry, recreational or pleasure boat, then you may have rights to file a injury lawsuit under the Jones Act or under the General Maritime Law. Both sets of maritime laws can provide you with legal rights to collect money for your injuries and damages that you have suffered while working on a ship or vessel.

If you were hurt onshore loading or unloading cargo then other laws such as worker’s compensation and The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) also provide you protection and legal rights for your injuries and losses. Due to the often confusing laws and facts that exist in many cases, it is critical that you contact an experienced maritime lawyer to assist you. Don’t let your employer or the insurance company representative decide what set of laws apply to you and your injury. Many times the path they choose and the medical doctors that they send you to are not on your side, nor do they have your best interest at heart.

Call and talk to an attorney with 30+ years of maritime injury experience at Willis Law Firm 24/7 for a Free and Confidential Case Evaluation at 1-800-883-9858 or fill out the online form.

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Commercial Diving Accident Lawyer – Talk to a Maritime Lawyer

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Commerical Diving Accident Lawyer

The Willis Law Firm stands ready to help commercial divers injured while working for ship owners, oilrig and offshore platform owners, and inland water divers working for water companies and municipalities in water intakes, underwater inspections and construction of water, sewage pipelines and irrigational canals. In many situations the divers are covered under the Jones Act and in other instances it may be their rights are under General Maritime law. In many inland rivers and water canals the employer will insist that the injured worker file a claim under worker’s compensation. It is this maze that the injured diver needs assistance form a law firm with experience to handle these cases and help push the case down the correct legal path.

Wrongful Death of Commercial Diver

The Willis Law Firm has represented commercial divers before on moderate injuries and even the tragic death of one young diver in Florida. That young man was working for a contract diving company that was called to a chemical plant outside Bartow, Florida to inspect and repair an underwater gate valve. The diver was sent into flowing water to try and get the gate operational, however during the inspection dive, the rushing water trapped him inside the canal pipe and he was unable to free himself and died. A wrongful death case was filed against all parties and was settled out of court.

Commercial Diving Injuries and Accidents include:

  • Decompression sickness / “The Bends”
  • Arterial Gas Embolism
  • Dehydration
  • Hypothermia
  • Snake Bites
  • Entrapment
  • Bites or stings for dangerous fishes
  • Electrocution / Electric Shock
  • Drowning

Lack of a Decompression Chamber

There have been many instances in which due to a sudden emergency a diver is forced to the surface faster than is safe. When this happens the diver will experience decompression sickness or the bends and without the proper decompression chamber or diving bells, the diver’s life may be threatened. If a employer, boat owner or other entity does not have operational decompression equipment, then the injured diver may be forced to another facility which could be too far away. If this happens the diving company or ship owner or others may be held liable under the Jones Act.

Diving Accident Lawyer

If you or a loved one has suffered serious diving injuries or decompression injuries, then call us immediately so we can help prevent your employer, the insurance company or others from steering you to what best suits their bottom dollar, not yours. Talk to a lawyer ready to fight for your rights. Call us 24/7 and we will begin the fight. Call Toll Free 1-800-883-9858.

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Tug Boat & Barge Accident Lawyer

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Tug Boat & Barge Accident Lawyer

Tugs and barge injuries happen daily. Whether on deck or in the engine room, making tow, making locks, dropping barges, checking tow or handling the lines, injuries happen. Tugboat injuries often occur while bending or stooping, entrapments with drum winches, climbing or descending ladders or stairs, lifting or carrying equipment. In many cases the vessel’s condition, lack of working equipment or lack of a trained crew may have played a part in causing or contributing to your injury. Sometimes cold weather conditions with ice or snow covered decks and stairs. Other times oily or slippery floors and stairs are the cause, and even missing or worn out safety equipment may be the culprit. No matter what, you must immediately take the necessary steps to get well and protects your rights under the law.

Many barge and towboat workers are also exposed to high and low levels of benzene exposure on barges from pure benzene and benzene containing aromatic hydrocarbons from barges tanks full of toluene, xylene, jet fuel, aviation gas, naphtha and other bulk chemicals. These benzene containing chemicals are known to cause AML Leukemia, Multiple Myeloma, Aplastic Anemia (AA), myelodysplastic syndrome or myelodysplasia (MDS), Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, blood cancers, bladder cancers and other leukemias and cancers.

After Your Injury on a Barge or Tugboat:

  • Report your injury immediately to your Supervisors
  • Fill out an Incident Report
  • Keep a Copy of the Accident Report You Filled Out
  • Get Witnesses Names and Contact Information
  • Get to a Doctor and get Needed Medical Treatment
  • Call a Tugboat & Barge Injury Lawyer – If you Have any Questions

After A Maritime Injury – What Happens Next?

If the injury on the barge of towboat is serious, and immediate medical attention is needed, make sure you give the medical personal a short history of what happened as well. Under the Jones Act you are entitled to receive maintenance and cure. Cure being the medical treatments and medicines and care needed to get you to your maximum medical improvement and the maintenance being those wages that the employer would have spent housing and feeding you on the vessel. The daily rate may be $15-$40 or depending on what you union contract requires. It is very important that you know your rights as an injured tow boat or barge crewman. In many cases additional monies sometimes substantial amounts may be awarded to you if we are able to show or prove that your employer or the vessel owner was negligent or that the vessel was unseaworthy. This is when it is very important to get legal help soon. If you give a statement or sign an affidavit to facts that support your employer’s position and not your own, then it will be harder to make a case for you. If in doubt, call us for a Free Confidential Consultation.

Towboat & Barge Injury Lawyer

When you are injured you a law firm will work as hard for you as you do. All Maritime and Jones Act cases are handled on a contingency fee and we of course never charge you or collect any fees unless we are successful for you. Call 1-800-883-9858 – Nationwide 24/7

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Fishing Trawler and Freighter Collided in Northern Sea

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In the morning of Feb 14, 2011, the “Birka Transporter” collided with the Urk based Dutch trawler “Willempje Hoekstra – UK 33”, 410 gt (IMO: 8705826; built 1986), 15 kilometres west of Den Helder.

While the “Birka Exporter” suffered only limited damage and was allowed to proceed to Amsterdam after investigations were carried out, the 39,98 m long “Willempje Hoekstra” suffered hull damage and water ingress. The MRCC Den Helder sent the KNRM-boat from Den Helder, the Dutch Navy vessel “HM Luymes” and the CG emergency tug “Ievoli Black”. Several additional dewatering pumps were put on board the fishing vessel.

There was no immediate danger for the crew. After the situation was stabilized, the trawler proceeded to Den Helder. The “Birka Transporter” moored in the Bering Harbour at 11.15 a.m.

Birka Transporter IMO 8820858, dwt 5387, built 1991, flag Aland Islands, manager Birka Line.

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Ship Docks in Houston with Body on Board

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By Dale Lezon – Houston Chronicle

U.S. officials are investigating the death of a sailor whose body was found aboard a Ukranian cargo ship days before it docked at the Houston Ship Wednesday night.

The man, a Ukrainian national, was discovered dead New Year’s Eve while the cargo ship was at sea, said Shauna Dunlap, spokeswoman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is handling the case.

The FBI is trying to determine how the man died, Dunlap said. No signs of a gunshot or stab wound appear on the body, she added. An autopsy will determine the cause of death.

Dunlap said the FBI was alerted about the death Wednesday night and that the ship later docked at the Port of Houston about 9 p.m. She said crew members told investigators they found the man dead.

Dunlap said the FBI also is trying to determine what law enforcement agency has jurisdiction in the case because the death occurred while the ship was in international waters.

The FBI has jurisdiction in U.S. waters.

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Cruise-Ship Crewman Needs Medevac after Severe Injury

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(SAN DIEGO) — A MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Coast Guard Sector San Diego medically evacuated a crewmember from a cruise ship 250 miles southwest of San Diego late Monday night.
Just after 2 p.m., the crew of the cruise ship Crystal Symphony notified the Coast Guard that the 39-year-old Filipino crewmember needed immediate medical assistance for an eye injury. A Coast Guard flight surgeon was consulted and recommended the crewmember be medically evacuated in order to preserve his eyesight.

At approximately 6:45 p.m., Monday, a helicopter was launched from Sector San Diego to conduct the medevac. An HC-130 Hercules aircraft crew from Air Station Sacramento supported the medevac by locating the ship and providing long-range coverage.

At 12:44 a.m, the helicopter crew hoisted the cruise ship’s crewmember, who was then flown to Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, Calif.

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Serodino Denies Liability For Fatal Barge Accident

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The Serodino barge firm has denied liability in a river accident that claimed the lives of two men.

Serodino filed suit in Federal Court asking for a ruling in a claim brought by the estate of Richard Wilkey, a Soddy Daisy native, who died along with Tim Spidle, of Elizabethton, Tn.

No claim has been filed by the Spidle estate.

The incident happened June 19 when the fishermen’s boat collided with a barge pushed by the M/V Bearcat tugboat at Possum Creek of Chickamauga Lake.

The suit says there was no fault or negligence on the part of the Chattanooga-based Serodino firm.

It asks that the court declare the value of the Bearcat not to exceed $1.1 million and its freight at the time not more than $11,615.

The Bearcat was involved in a similar deadly collision with a fishing boat on Watts Bar Lake on June 26, 2009, that claimed the life of Jones Bower Bare, 53, of Trap Hill, N.C.

A former pilot for the Serodino firm, in a separate federal suit, said the company was negligent in its river operations, causing the two accidents in which three people were killed in a 12-month time. 

Kelly O’Connor filed the “whistleblower” lawsuit. Saying he was fired for speaking out about alleged unsafe practices by the firm, he is asking back and forward pay as well as punitive damages.

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Tugboat Barge Crash Shuts Down Houston Ship Channel

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By Houston Chronicle

By Zain Shauk, Houston Chronicle

Houston Ship Channel Lawyer

A set of barges crashed into an electrical tower Sunday in the Port of Houston, prompting the U.S. Coast Guard to shut down most of the nation’s second-largest maritime shipping complex, possibly until Wednesday.

A towing vessel pushing three barges of scrap metal through the Houston Ship Channel about 6 a.m. hit a 300-foot-tall electrical tower, which carries lines across the artery, said Petty Officer Richard Brahm, a spokesman for the Coast Guard. No injuries were reported.

The crash happened at the narrowest point in the waterway, leaving three-fourths of the port’s terminals inaccessible.

“Maybe if it was wider we could have got boats around it, but it’s not, so it’s a logistical problem,” Brahm said. “It’s a bad place for it to happen.”

There was no risk of electricity-related injuries or effects to the power grid, which is owned by Houston-based CenterPoint Energy, because lines in the area were deactivated prior to the crash for maintenance work, said Penny Todd, a spokeswoman for the company.

CenterPoint was in the process Sunday of moving equipment needed to clear the steel tower and cables from the waterway — work the company expects will be completed Wednesday, she said.

The 25-mile-long port complex is a major economic engine for the region and in 2009 handled more waterborne tonnage than any port in the country, according to the Port of Houston Authority.

About 60 ships carrying $322 million in goods and resources — ranging from crude oil to finished products in containers — move through the port each day, said Chief Warrant Officer Lionel Bryant, a spokesman for the Coast Guard.

19 miles closed

Items shipped through the Port of Houston move to and from destinations in every state, which could mean delays for companies with vessels in the water.

Those ships will have to drop anchor and wait until the steel electrical tower, which was propped up by the barges after the accident, is removed.

At least eight ships were waiting in an anchoring area outside the port after the crash. Five others were waiting to leave.

The Coast Guard closed 19 miles out of the 54-mile-long ship channel, leaving more than 100 terminals — including those for oil giants Shell and Valero — cut off from the sea.

Further delays possible

The few accessible terminals are mostly for container ships and will not be usable by most companies that would need other infrastructure for loading and unloading or that had planned to arrive at terminals north of the crash site, said Tom Pace, presiding officer of Houston Ship Pilots, a labor association.

Three days of backups could result in further delays, even as traffic begins moving through the port again, Pace said.

“It’s going to take probably three days to get everything back to normal after that,” he said.

Crew members from the towing vessel, the T/V Safety Quest, were removed from the boat and tested for drugs and alcohol.

It was unclear how the accident occurred, but the tower’s location has long been known to ship pilots who work in the port, Pace said.

It was one of six towers in the channel, but was the closest to the preferred waterway for traffic.

“The one problem is the tower’s really close to the navigable channel,” Pace said. “That’s probably one of the reasons it had happened.”

Staff writer Sarah Raslan contributed to this report.

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Platform Owner Involved in Previous Offshore Accidents Regulators Say

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Houston-based Mariner Energy paid $55,000 in fines this summer after inspectors found safety violations. Four of the company’s accidents resulted in worker injuries, records show.

By Julie Cart and P.J. Huffstutter, Los Angeles Times

Mariner Energy, which owns the platform that erupted in flames Thursday, has been involved in more than a dozen offshore accidents in the Gulf of Mexico in the last four years, including at least four fires and a well blowout, according to federal regulators.

In one of those accidents aboard the oil and gas platform known as Vermilion Block 380, which seriously injured a worker in 2008, federal inspectors highlighted “unsafe workmanlike operations,” according to federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement records.

This summer, the Houston-based Mariner paid $55,000 in fines stemming from inspections that turned up various safety violations. Four of Mariner’s accidents resulted in worker injuries; two of them involved fires, according to federal records.

Still, the company’s safety record does not rank it among the gulf’s worst operators, but underscores the inherent dangers of offshore energy prospecting and production: The tiniest spark can result in a catastrophic fire or explosion.

For example, a Mariner production platform caught fire in June 2009 after a methanol tank exploded during a welding operation. A fire on another Mariner platform broke out the year before during a routine cleaning operation.

The production platform involved in Thursday’s fire was set in about 340 feet of water about 102 miles off Louisiana. On average, it produced about 9 million cubic feet of natural gas, and 1,400 barrels of oil and condensate a day, according to the company.

Mariner Energy is considered to be a small- to mid-sized independent offshore exploration and production firm, but one that was growing rapidly in recent years and showed a lot of promise, said Bruce Bullock, director of the Maguire Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University.

“They’ve had a fair amount of success, particularly in the deep water in the gulf,” Bullock said.

That success came after Mariner clawed its way back from the brink of dissolution in the early 2000s, when former energy giant Enron owned 96% of the Houston-based firm. A group of private equity investors bought it out of the Enron bankruptcy in 2004.

Two years later, using a complicated transaction and bolstered by Gulf of Mexico assets acquired from rival Forest Oil Corp., Mariner went public.

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