Without shipping channels, waterways, and ocean inlets, transporting countless everyday goods would be much more expensive and difficult, if not impossible. Because of the heavy traffic sailing on these waterways, they must be diligently maintained through dredging. While dredges obviously play an integral role in the shipping industry, they are risky for the men and women who work aboard and around them.
Dredging is Important
With their large scoop cranes or suction vacuums, dredges remove excess silt from the bottom of the body of water they are maintaining and transport it elsewhere. This deepens the waterway, allowing it to remain navigable. While most dredges do basically the same job, clearing silt, there are many different types of dredges. Suction dredgers use a long vacuum to suck up sediment. Excavating dredges have one large scoop on the end of a crane, and digs sediment out of the water. Bucket dredges have many smaller buckets attached to a conveyer system that continually lifts sediment to the surface. Finally, there are water injection dredges, which work by pumping pressured water into the sediment to disturb the silt build up. In addition to maintenance work, dredges, especially bucket dredges, can be used in the commercial fishing industry for collecting clams and other bottom-dwelling creatures.
However, Dredging Can Be Dangerous
While dredges are necessary, especially in high traffic shipping areas, they are still dangerous. Dredges transport heavy machinery and many people, almost guaranteeing that an injury will happen at some point. The cranes aboard the dredges also bring high risk. Material that falls from the crane can cause injury, and even be devastating if debris is large enough. Miscommunication between crane operators and workers can also lead to accidents and injuries. As with any activity around water, drowning is a major risk. The US Coast Guard reports that from 2000 to 2012, 50% of fatalities on towing vessels or barges were due to falling overboard. This means that once an individual falls overboard, it is extremely difficult to save them. Extreme weather conditions, improperly maintained vessels, faulty equipment, and lack of training increase risk.
Dredge workers, like many employees involved in the shipping industry, are covered under the Jones Act. The Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, is a federal law that, among other things, gives sailors the right to make claims against ship owners, captains, or other members of the crew for negligent or injurious behavior. It allows seaman, or their surviving spouses or dependents, to make claims for lost wages or medical care, damages due to negligence, or unseaworthiness of a vessel. Because there are many nuances, conditionals, and exceptions involved with maritime law, it is best to contact a lawyer, specifically one highly trained in maritime law, to handle your case.
Jones Act & Maritime Lawyer Richard Serpe
Attorney Richard Serpe is experienced with cases under the Jones Act and general maritime law. After law school, he obtained a Masters Degree in maritime law from Tulane University School of Law, and has also achieved the highest ranking of Proctor from the Maritime Law Association of the United States. He knows the ins and outs of maritime law, and he truly cares about the people he has dedicated his life to helping. If you or a loved one has been injured, and would like to speak with Richard Serpe, contact our office to setup a free consultation.