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Seattle Maritime Law Blog

Father of drowned fisherman urges safety for others

Don’t set foot on a fishing boat without a knife, and make sure it’s tethered to you. The father of a drowned conch fisherman wants others to hear this message, in the hopes that it will help prevent tragedies like the one his family experienced last summer.

The Marthas Vineyard Times recently interviewed John Gurney, whose son Luke drowned after getting caught in a trawl line last June. Gurney’s new mission is to spread a simple message he thinks could save lives: make sure you have a tethered knife on you at all times, and be prepared to use it during an emergency. He recently spoke to local commercial fishermen at a safety training event and hopes to reach both commercial and recreational fishermen.

Nantucket fishermen rescued after engine room fire

Two Nantucket Sound fisherman escaped injuries after a fire in their engine room on the morning of May 11. The Coast Guard heard about the fire on the F/V Jupiter from two sources at the same time: they received a radio call from the boat's captain as well as a report from an aircraft crew that saw smoke from above.

The nearby Coast Guard Cutter Oak, a buoy tender, responded to the 41-foot vessel within five minutes, according to a Coast Guard press release. They were able to extinguish the fire and ensure that neither of the two fishermen on board was injured. Another Coast Guard boat and a local fire boat also arrived to help.

Federal engineers working on making winches safer

Five years ago, a 15-year-old died after getting caught in a winch on a shrimp vessel off the coast of Mississippi. Since then, engineers at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health have been looking at ways to prevent winch injuries, which are particularly common on shrimp boats in the Gulf of Mexico.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 35 fishermen in the Southern shrimp fleet were injured by winches between 2000 and 2011, and eight of these injuries were fatal. Many of these injuries happened because a deckhand's loose clothing, such as a sleeve or a glove, became entangled in the winch.

After vessel capsize, a reminder of Oregon river bar dangers

Last year, at least seven people died in boating accidents on river bars along the Oregon Coast. Although no deaths have been reported so far this year, at least one recreational vessel has capsized, and the Coast Guard is being proactive in encouraging mariners to check bar restrictions before setting out.

In mid-April, a group of recreational boaters got stuck in jetty in a restricted bar near Newport, causing their boat to capsize. According to The World newspaper, Coast Guard members at the Yaquina Bay station attempted to warn the boat over the radio, but the boaters didn't respond or change course. The boaters also apparently missed flashing signs warning of the danger ahead.

New Hampshire rescue reveals how dog PFDs help keep everyone safe

If you're taking a dog to sea, you should add a canine PFD to your safety gear list. And it's not just for your pet's safety. As a recent rescue near the New Hampshire coast reveals, knowing every living creature on board can float can help a captain focus on taking other necessary safety measures.

Last weekend, the Coast Guard and a local fire crew rescued men and a dog named Gauge about three miles from Hampton Harbor. The lobster boat, Patricia Lynn II, alerted the Coast Guard that the boat was taking on water late Saturday evening and the bilge pump had stopped working.

Cruise lines beginning to hire lifeguards to make pools safer

Drowning deaths on cruise ships aren’t limited to man-overboard incidents, unfortunately. In recent years, several children have drowned or come close to drowning in cruise ship swimming pools, according to the maritime website gCaptain. Prominent incidents include a near-drowning on a Disney Cruise Lines ship and two tragic deaths on Norwegian Cruise Line ships.

All of these incidents took place in pools with no lifeguards in duty. In fact, until recently, it would be hard to find a lifeguard employed on any cruise ship in the industry. “Swim at your own risk” policies have been standard practice on cruise ships for years.

In El Faro’s wake, an idea for a new safety system

The wife of one of the crew members lost in the 2015 El Faro sinking wants to prevent other tragic losses at sea. In honor of her late husband, Rochelle Hamm is proposing what she’s calling the Hamm Alert system, which would keep ships from sailing during major storms.

The container ship El Faro sank during Hurricane Joaquim in 2016, causing the death of 33 crew members. According to the Coast Guard’s ongoing investigation, the captain most likely did not have clear information about the hurricane’s path. Hamm’s proposed safety system would keep ships in port, period, during a hurricane, according to Claims Journal.

Florida pleasure boater injured in collision with fishing vessel

A recreational boater was hurt when a commercial fishing boat's outrigger hit a smaller pleasure boat near Port Canaveral recently. The April 2 incident involved a 48-foot commercial fishing vessel, the Joyce Marie, and a 25-foot recreational boat about two miles from shore.

The boats were apparently quite close to each other at the time of the accident, which happened in mid-afternoon. When the fishing boat extended its outrigger, it struck the top console of the smaller boat, the Coast Guard told Florida Today. The Joyce Marie crew immediately called the Coast Guard, who rescued two adults and two children from the disabled boat.

Lost passenger is fifth man overboard off cruise ships this year

Cruise ships may seem like floating hotels, but passengers face some risks they never would on land, even in calm seas. There have been five man overboard incidents involving cruise ship crew and passengers so far this year, most recently involving a Florida man on the Carnival Victory cruise ship.

The 23-year-old from Florida fell overboard off the eighth deck of the ship around 3 a.m. last Wednesday, according to Coast Guard reports. After 16 hours of searching, the Coast Guard finally made the tough call to stop the search.

Some legal closure after Destination presumptive death hearing

An Anchorage jury declared the six fishermen who disappeared with the F/V Destination legally dead this week, as their families and the fishing community continue to mourn their loss.

For the families of the F/V Destination fishermen, the ruling provides some opportunities for legal closure, making it possible for them to begin to settle estates, insurance claims and other legal issues. The hearing was held in Anchorage District Court on Monday, where the jury heard testimony from the wife of the ship’s captain as well as the president of the company that owned the vessel, both of whom had asked for the hearing.

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