In Seattle, Washington a new type of fishing boat is currently under construction in a dry dock north of Seattle. The 190-foot, $35 million vessel was commissioned in an effort to keep fishermen safe. This boat would take fishermen off the deck waiting for the long-line to be reeled-in, and behind the safety of the hull. Instead of being subject to high waves in frigid temperatures where the risk of being tossed into the sea is great, fishing will now be done through an opening in the bottom-center of the vessel in a "moon pool". There, fishermen will reel in the long-line and then send the fish to other parts of the ship for immediate processing. The processing part of the vessel's design was engineered to increase the amount of fish processed, which would reduce waste and the urgency normally associated with fishing in the dangerous waters during the short fishing season.
This boat is scheduled for use in late 2014, and will be the first of its kind for commercial fishing in the United States. Several attempts have been made previously to improve fishermen safety. Efforts of fishing associations and the United States Coast Guard have focused on education and better equipment that would help lengthen the time of survival in frigid waters. This new vessel, however, was designed to remove the danger completely. While the number of deaths dropped from 42 in 2011 to 32 in 2012, crabbing and fishing has remained one of the most fatal professions in the United States. One third of the fatalities in Alaska between 2000 and 2012 occurred after crew members were tossed overboard.
In such a dangerous profession, it is important to know what you are entitled to as a crew member on a fish or crab processing boat. If you have been injured or become ill, you can expect to receive maintenance and cure, two types of remedies that have existed for several years in maritime law. Vessel owners are required to provide the contracted wages you would have earned during they voyage along with a a daily stipend that covers the living expenses you would have had for free on the ship, like boarding and meals. Owners must also pay for medical bills for injury and illness until you reach maximum recovery. This includes doctor visits, hospital costs, and other rehabilitative therapies.
Families of crew members who were killed while at sea may also be able to find financial relief through a wrongful death action. Despite the great advances described above, exhaustion and negligence onboard a fishing vessel can create dangerous, and ultimately fatal, conditions for crew members. Two statutes, the Jones Act and the Death on the High Seas Act, may provide extra opportunities of relief for the family member of a fisherman or crabber who died while onboard.
The Washington Commercial Fishing, Crabbing and Processing Injury Attorneys, John Merriam and Gordon Webb, understand the dangers of working on a ship through our own experience as working as a seaman and as a fisherman and boat builder. With a combined 50 years of experience in maritime and admiralty law practice, we understand the concerns you and your family may have when considering legal action against a vessel owner. If you have been injured or are the family member of a crew member who has died while working onboard a vessel, contact our office at 877.800.1007.
More Blog Posts:
Second Circuit Court Of Appeals Decision Bars Economic Recovery In Absence Of Physical Injury, Maritime Lawyer Blog, December 13, 2013
Nation's Focus On Fair Wages Centers On Washington, Maritime Lawyer Blog, December 6, 2013