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Seattle Maritime Law Blog

What happened to the F/V Destination in the Bering Sea?

After the Coast Guard abandoned its search for the F/V Destination earlier this week, plenty of questions remain about what happened. And without much evidence to go on, we may be wondering about the vessel's disappearance for a long time.

The Anchorage Daily News called the tragic loss of the crabbing boat and its six crew members “the deadliest Bering Sea disaster in more than 20 years.” It may also turn out to be one of the most mysterious disasters, as so far very little evidence has been found, and there were no witnesses, not even a mayday call.

The paperless wheelhouse: Requirements for electronic charts

Being able to navigate on paper charts might be a mark of an experienced sailor, but keeping a stack of charts on board is no longer a hard requirement. Even those charts you keep in the wheelhouse for backup might not be strictly necessary, according to a Coast Guard guidance released last year.

If you decide to go completely paperless, you’ll still need a backup - just an electronic one. And the requirements may make the owners of small boats decide to stick with paper backups, at least for now.

Pacific Star longliner flooding illustrates importance of 'Good Samaritan' vessels

If you hear a nearby vessel is in trouble, what do you do? For fishermen and other seamen, it's usually a no-brainer: you see how you can help.

The importance of "Good Samaritans" in assisting vessels in distress was evident in a situation in Southeast Alaska last week. The Pacific Star longliner started taking on water near the Fairweather Grounds late in the evening on February 3, KCAW reported. The Coast Guard responded with pumps, and the Pacific Star was able to safely make it to shore for repairs, then on to Sitka.

Not-so-safe harbor? Port Townsend hoist fails, drops vessel

There's no doubt that some of the riskiest situations for commercial fishermen occur at sea. But harbors and shipyard present plenty of dangers as well, even for mariners who are only there for short periods of time.

A recent example of potential shipyard dangerous comes from Port Townsend, where a Travelift hoist failed last week, dropping a 60-foot fishing vessel 15 feet down toward the water.

Columbia River fishermen rescued after vessel takes on water

Six-foot seas added to the urgency of the mayday call from the mouth of the Columbia River. Just after 3 a.m. on Sunday morning, the Coast Guard received a call from the captain of the fishing vessel Coastal Reign that the engine room was taking on water.

“Gonna need someone out here right now with pumps, right now,” the captain said on the mayday call to the Coast Guard Sector Columbia River.

Dungeness crab fishery carries high risk of death

Rough January seas can make the beginning of the Dungeness crab fishery along the Pacific Northwest coast especially dangerous. The Coast Guard and Washington state officials have been monitoring this year's fishery to make sure vessels are staying as safe as possible – and that the Coast Guard can respond quickly if something goes wrong.

Dungeness fisherman in California, Oregon and Washington have a much higher risk of death than the average commercial fisherman, according to a 2015 study of injuries in the Dungeness fishery by researchers at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and Oregon State University.

The high seas: why marijuana needs to stay on land

Recreational marijuana is now legal all along the Pacific coast of the U.S., from California to Alaska. But when you head off the coast, whether on a commercial fishing boat or your friend's skiff, your marijuana needs to stay ashore.

Despite the wave of state laws legalizing marijuana for medical and personal use, it remains illegal under federal law, including the laws the U.S. Coast Guard is charged with enforcing. Getting caught with marijuana on a boat off the coast of Washington is just as illegal as getting caught with marijuana on land in, say, Idaho.

On-board hazards, part 3: refrigerants

In the final installment of our series on on-board hazards, we'll look at dangers involved in working with refrigerants.

Your vessel's refrigeration system is crucial to protecting your catch, so you'll want to make sure it's working properly. However, you should be aware that you can be exposed to harmful chemicals when working to maintain or repair these systems. Leaks in the system can also release these hazardous substances.

On-board hazards, part 2: confined spaces

Anyone who's spent significant time at sea is all too familiar with the challenges of small spaces, from climbing into the engine room to squeezing into a tiny bunk.

But if you're working and living in the confined spaces of a fishing vessel, there's much more to worry about than just cabin fever. For starters, moving in between small spaces - often without a ladder or guardrail - can contribute to slips and falls, which we discussed in our last post.

On-board hazards, part 1: fall protection

When you work on a commercial fishing vessel, on-board hazards are certainly not the only ones you have to contend with. Vessel disasters and falls overboard are responsible for more fatalities than injuries that happen on board.

On-board hazards, however, account for the majority of non-fatal injuries to U.S. commercial fishermen that require hospitalization.

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