Maritime Crane Accidents

The shipping industry involves fast paced loading and unloading of cargo from container ships and other vessels to shore. Because these loads are heavy, they usually require use of large-scale cranes (load bearing machines with a hoisting mechanism) to raise and lower container boxes and other heavy loads. The cranes rely on outriggers to provide an effective counterweight for the load.

Longshore and port workers typically use cranes on a regular basis. Their safe operation requires a series of precautions to avoid causing serious injury or death. These include properly maintaining and positioning cranes that must be operated by skilled and trained workers. Failure to take any one of these precautions can cause catastrophic loss of life and serious injury.

Practices for Safe Use of Cranes

Proper use of cranes is complex. Some tasks that need to be properly executed for safe operation include:

  • Balancing and securing a cargo load to avoid it shifting or falling during maneuvers
  • Ensuring the crane is not overloaded to prevent it from tipping over or breaking
  • Keeping workers a safe distance away by using a spotter and/or tag lines
  • Communicating with other workers on safe placement of the load
  • Maintaining and inspecting the crane to detect defects and make necessary repairs

Regular use of cranes bearing heavy loads can wear down its components. Common mechanical problems with cranes include metal fatigue and worn-out slewing bearings. When used in and around saltwater, there is a relatively high risk of corrosion of metal parts. Each of these problems can impair the structural integrity of the crane and cause it to collapse or unexpectedly drop its load.

Other Cargo Handling Risks

Beyond use of cranes, mishandling of the cargo can cause or contribute to accidents in ports. Errors in cargo handling can include:

  • Exceeding a vessel’s holding capacity for cargo
  • Storing cargo in containers that are not durable and strong enough
  • Failing to secure cargo on decks and inside cargo holds
  • Handling hazardous material(s) improperly

Risk of Injury

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) compiles information on workplace hazards and incidents of accidents, injuries, and fatalities. NIOSH estimates that a crane tips over during every 10,000 hours of use. Failing to adequately extend outriggers before swinging a boom or lifting a load is quite common in these accidents. Accidents involving maritime use of cranes have caused serious injuries including crushed or other injury to limbs, brain injury, and drowning. Fatalities have also been caused by crane-related maritime accidents.

Recovering Damages from a Maritime Accident

Longshore employees and port workers are entitled to recover damages if they are injured on the job. The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act covers longshore employees and port workers injured on the job and makes them eligible to recover compensation for lost wages, cost of medical treatment and rehabilitation, and permanent or temporary disability. It may also be possible to recover for emotional trauma and pain as well as punitive damages if negligence or willful endangerment of employees by the employer was responsible for the accident or fatality. Survivors may also be entitled to recover damages if a maritime worker is killed on the job.

South Jersey Maritime Accident Lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. Represent Injured Longshore and Port Workers

If you or a loved one has been injured in a maritime accident, an experienced South Jersey maritime accident lawyer at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. can evaluate your case and help you explore your options. Call 888-999-1962 or submit an online form to schedule a free consultation. From our offices in Philadelphia and Cherry Hill, New Jersey, we represent clients across South Jersey, including the areas of Cape May, Gloucester, and Wildwood.