Coast Guard and Other Marine Associations Teach Commercial Fishing Safety Course in Pacific Northwest
A two-day training was offered for fishermen from Washington, Alaska, and Oregon to help increase chances of survival during maritime emergencies. Harsh weather conditions, exhaustion, or an unseaworthy vessel can all lead to an intense, stressful, and dangerous situation. Proper training that one can fall back on helps limit the extent of injury sustained, or may even be the difference between life or death.
The training arrives following a recommendation by industry leaders to adopt a new set of Best Practices for commercial vessels. Concern for fishing vessel stability has been renewed following two accidents with commercial prawn vessels during the 2012 season. Improperly loaded gear caused one vessel to list, flood, and flounder. To avoid shifting, emphasis has been placed on gear to be stored properly in low areas of the ship, stacked evenly. Crewmember education is also vital; by doing so, fishermen will know the effects of wind on a ship that either has a loaded deck or low fuel levels and can take precautionary measures to avoid an emergency situation.
If a vessel is unseaworthy, owners are no longer entitled to any exoneration or limitation of liability under 46 USC, Sec. 181, otherwise known as the Limitation of Liability Act. Maritime and admiralty law has long held that vessel owners are responsible for the injured fisherman's damages in the form of maintenance and cure. Shipowners must provide a vessel with furnishings and appurtenances appropriate for their intended use. If a vessel is shown to be unseaworthy, negligence does not have to be shown by the injured fisherman for recovery - however, it must be a condition that occurred both before and during the voyage. (See Cookingham v. United States, 184 F.2d 213 (3d Cir. 1950)).
Maintenance and cure are the names used in maritime law for the standard type of compensation provided to injured fishermen. Maintenance is money paid to injured fishermen while they recover until the fisherman has fully gained back his or her health or cannot medically improve anymore and is otherwise permanently, partially or totally disabled. This is typically a wage agreed upon in the employment contract signed before the voyage, which usually includes a per diem amount plus unearned wages that may have been earned, depending on the duties assigned. Cure is the money provided for medical expenses to obtain recovered healthy, including doctor's visits, medical equipment, testing, and transportation costs to and from the appointment.
If you are a fisherman who has been injured while fishing on a commercial vessel, contact the experienced Washington maritime attorneys John Merriam and Gordon Webb. They have over a combined total of 50 years of experience practicing maritime and admiralty law and appreciate the hardships fishermen and their families go through when injury or death occurs as the result of an unseaworthy vessel or fellow crew-member's negligence. We want to help you obtain the maximum amount of compensation, and will work tirelessly to do so. Our attorneys are available in both Seattle at 206.729.5252 and Bellevue at 425.454.3800 for a free, confidential consultation.