For Fishermen Wives, BP Oil Spill Brings Back Nightmares of Katrina
Depression rates are up, and so are incidences of domestic violence in St. Bernard Parish in Louisiana. This was one of the worst hit areas when Katrina struck, and residents here are hardly unaccustomed to disaster. Barely had these people recovered from the nightmare that was Katrina, than they find they have to deal with new stresses and anxieties brought about by the BP oil spill. Mother Jones has a report on the high incidence of depression, abuse and suicide among the fishermen’s communities in St. Bernard Parish.
These women have to juggle with the multiple responsibilities of caring for their families, keeping their men folk going through these troubled times, and worrying about daily living expenses. Their husbands have seen little business since the oil spill wreaked havoc along the Louisiana coastline, and many of them have started working as cleanup crews. The work requires them to be in close- proximity to dangerous chemicals, and some of the wives worry that their husbands will be left with health effects that last for years after the last drop of oil has been cleaned from the Gulf.
There are other worries too. Local charities are handing out grocery vouchers, but there’s little money left to meet other non-food-expenses.
The stress is telling on the wives. They’re depressed, they’re angry, and they’re worried not just about the financial situation, but about all the stress on their families and their husbands. They speak of husbands who have turned to beating their wives to vent their frustrations and turned to alcohol to lose their sorrows. In Plaquemines Parish, incidences of domestic violence are up, but counselors are not ready to confirm it’s because of the spill. One mayor in an Alabama however is more confident. He’s blaming the oil spill for a 320% increase in domestic violence incidences in Bayou La Batre.
One thing is clear to maritime lawyers. As long as the well keeps spewing oil, and as long as these people aren’t secure about their financial present and future, we can expect more families to be torn by domestic and emotional troubles.
Sulpicio Lines Loses Appeal from Massive Ferry Disaster
Sulpicio Lines has lost a second appeal to halt the prosecute two of its officials on charges relating to the 2008 Princess of the Stars ferry disaster, which killed more than 800 people. The Princess of the Stars was a ferry owned by Filipino shipping company Sulpicio Lines that capsized off the coast of San Fernando, Romblon at the height of Typhoon Fengshen on June 21, 2008. The ferry had a total passenger capacity of 1,992 people. The 5-member Philippines Board of Marine Inquiry, in its 65-page report dated August 25, 2008 (submitted to the Maritime Industry Authority or Marina), found Sulpicio Lines and its captain liable for the MV Princess of the Stars June 21 maritime tragedy.
The Philippines Justice Department denied the appeal filed by Edgar Go, the vice-president of Sulpicio, to reconsider a March 2009 decision which dismissed his petition for a review of the findings by prosecutors. Justice secretary Alberto Agra said Go had failed to raise any new arguments that would warrant reversal of the ruling.
The Justice Department claims that Go, the head of Sulpicio’s crisis management committee, failed to direct the captain, Florencio Marimon Sr, to cancel the trip to Cebu, even after the weather bureau had raised Storm Signal No 3 over the area where the ship would pass.
Marimon was also named in the criminal case – although he has been missing since the disaster, his body was never recovered.
The failure of Go’s appeal coincided with the second anniversary of the Princess of the Stars sinking on 21 June 2008. Only 32 people out of the 860 passengers and crew onboard survived.
If you have been injured in a ferry accident or have questions about any other maritime claims, please contact the maritime lawyers of Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer & Harris, LLP at email@example.com.
Texas Shipbuilding Company Cited for Safety Hazards
Damaged electrical junction boxes, failure to provide employees fall protection systems and gaping open manholes on decks – these and several more serious health and safety hazards led to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration citing a Texas-based ship builder this week.
According to the OSHA website, Channelview-based Sneed Shipbuilding has been cited for several violations. OSHA’s Houston office began investigations of Sneed Shipbuilding for structural deficiencies on crawler cranes that the company operated. The investigators also found dangerous electrical hazards strewn around the workplace. There were damaged junction boxes that were left open, and workers were using damaged welding leads.
Other violations included failure to provide employees fall protection systems and failure to cover open manholes on the deck. There were no fire extinguishers in areas used for the storage of flammable materials and solvents. OSHA also found that grinders did not come with guards on them. The agency also found form keeping violations, including failure to maintain the required Summary of Work-Related Injuries And Illnesses form. OSHA found that there was no respiratory protection program in place to protect workers from inhalation hazards. In all, the agency issued 19 serious citations, and Sneed Shipbuilding has 15 working days to either comply or appeal the citations.
Workers who work in shipyards or the ship building industry must keep their eyes open for any safety or health hazards. If you are a worker in the ship building industry in Houston or around Texas, and have a question about health and safety standards in your work environment, contact OSHA’s Houston North area office at 281 591 2438. You can also call the OSHA Hotline at 800 321 6742.
It’s important that workers know that dangerous conditions in the workplace don’t have to exist.
The maritime lawyers at Schechter McElwee Shaffer and Harris represent injured longshoremen, dockworkers, shipyard workers, shipbuilding workers, crane operators and other maritime workers who are covered under the LHWCA.
IMO Declares Antipiracy Theme for World Maritime Day 2011
With all the coverage of the BP rig explosion and the massive spill that’s set to break records, it’s easy to forget that maritime workers across the globe continue to be at risk from pirate attacks. The International Maritime Organization has adopted an antipiracy theme for World Maritime Day 2011.
The Secretary General of the IMO has set out five objectives that will be pursued in commemoration of World Maritime Day 2011. The five objectives are
- Securing the release of hostage seamen who continue to be in the custody of pirates across the globe.
- Improving protections provided to persons, vessels and cargo by promoting support from the Navy, as well as care for hijacked seamen
- Ensuring the proper implementation of antipiracy measures, by making sure that merchant vessels are able to access naval support, and making sure that all recommended invasive and defensive measures are implemented properly
- Encouraging sharing of information between states and regions aimed at reducing attack rates, enhanced coordination of civil and military efforts, as well as regional antipiracy initiatives.
- Strengthening the capacity of states to deter and combat piracy and to bring those who commit acts of piracy to justice. These measures include attacking the root cause of piracy, and providing proper assistance to states like Somalia that are the center of the international piracy problem. This assistance will take the form of helping these states attain the financial, social and economic security they need to minimize the growth of piracy.
There’s little happening in the state of Somalia to assure maritime lawyers that piracy radiating from that region is going away anytime soon. The monsoon season in the high- piracy areas of Horn of Africa and the coast of Somalia is over, and we can expect a spike in attacks again. This is the right time to refocus attention on the piracy problem.
Fire on Board Liberian Cargo Vessel Sophie Oldendorff in Port of Tampa
The U.S. Coast Guard is currently responding to a fire onboard a vessel at the Port of Tampa.
At approximately 9:45 a.m. Wednesday, Coast Guard notification went out regarding a fire onboard the Sophie Oldendorff, a 742-foot Liberian-flagged cargo vessel. The Sophie Olendorff is pictured here on Olendorff Carrier’s web site.
The cause of the fire is unknown.
About 80 firefighters, 24 fire trucks and a fire boat are battling the blaze at the Port of Tampa. A cargo conveyor belt is burning aboard the 742-foot Sophie Oldendorff, which was transporting rock and gravel. Part of the belt has collapsed.
The ship’s 32 crew members are still on board but have been moved away from the blaze. No injuries have been reported, however the workers will undoubetdly be exposed to smoke.
Firefighters are using foam and water but are being hampered by the excessive heat and by the large metal housing enclosing the conveyor belt.
A dockside sulfuric acid pipeline has been shut off and crews are keeping the pipeline cool.
Investigators haven’t determined the extent of any damage to the Liberian-flagged ship.
Waiving the Jones Act to Allow Foreign Vessels to Participate in Oil Spill Cleanup Efforts
Foreign maritime companies have different and advanced maritime technology than the US, including skimming ships. These ships are currently not allowed to participate in Gulf Coast Oil Spill cleanup efforts due to provisions contained in the Jones Act. Some foreign technology is already a part of current oil spill cleanup efforts, including Canada’s containment boom, Dutch sweeping arms, and Mexico’s skimmers. This technology, however, is used aboard US vessels which circumvents the Jones Act requirements.
While the Bush Administration did allow “presidential waivers” of the Jones Act during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, President Obama has not yet allowed such a waiver with regard to the oil spill. There are well-established federal procedures for waiving the Jones Act to bring in foreign vessels when US vessels are not available. While waivers to the Act are being considered by the White House, nothing has happened and this spill started almost two months ago.
What is the Jones Act?
The Jones Act is part of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 that deals with a variety of issues surrounding maritime work. The Jones Act provides compensation for injured seamen upon a finding of even minor negligence on the part of the maritime employer. The statutes themselves cannot be understood without looking at how the courts have interpreted and applied them to real-life situations. Generally, the Jones Act laws exist to protect offshore workers.
The provisions of the Jones Act discussed with relation to the oil spill cleanup are protectionist in nature, requiring vessel working in the United States to be built in and crewed by US workers. These provisions were drafted with the intent to help rebuild the US shipping industry after World War I.
For more information about the Jones Act or any maritime law question, please contact the Jones Act Lawyers of SMSH today.
Oil Spill Responders to Hold Terrebone Parish Community Open House
Representatives from BP, the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Wildlife and Fisheries, the Environmental Protection Agency and other state and partner agencies responding to the Deepwater Horizon incident, will host an open house this Friday, June 11, 2010 in Terrebone Parish at the Houma Civic Center, 346 Civic Center Blvd. in Houma starting at 6 pm.
The open house will serve as an effort to inform local communities about current efforts and to communicate with the public in general. The open house will feature experts and representatives from responding agencies who will answer questions and discuss the positions available for volunteers and those seeking employment.
Claims representatives will be available for any questions or concerns residents might have on the claims process.
As always you can:
- Report oiled shoreline or request volunteer information: (866) 448-5816
- Submit alternative response technology, services or products: (281) 366-5511
- Submit your vessel for the Vessel of Opportunity Program: (281) 366-5511
- Submit a claim for damages: (800) 440-0858
- Report oiled wildlife: (866) 557-1401
Cruise Ship Bartender Accused of Rape of 14-Year-Old
For a 14-year-old girl on a Carnival cruise last April, it was a holiday from hell. She was raped by a bartender on the cruise, a crime that is now under investigation by the FBI.
According to the young girl, the bartender, 30-year-old for the Hery Krispiyanto dragged her into a room, and then raped her. The girl didn’t tell her parents during the cruise, and only confided in her mother in the month of August. The incident was then reported to the FBI. The agency has launched an investigation into the rape. Carnival says it is cooperating with all investigations.
A crime on a ship is the last thing you’re thinking of when you embark on your dream cruise. However, the fact is that very often robberies, assaults, rapes, and even murders are committed on cruise ships. Unfortunately, these crimes are not as infrequent or rare as passengers hope. Every year, hundreds of passengers fall victims to crimes on cruise vessels. Many victims simply disappear.
Most crimes on cruise ships simply go unreported. Cruise companies are not required to report crimes that occur more than 12 nautical miles offshore. In fact, cruise companies are not required to report crimes to the FBI. This means that when passengers leave on a cruise, they may not only have their safety compromised, but also their rights.
Cruise safety advocates around the country are trying to change the situation, but have a formidable opponent. There is currently a bill that would require cruise ship companies to report crimes to the FBI, but it has faced resistance. The cruise ship industry spent millions of dollars lobbying the government in 2009. There is a bill that would require cruise ship companies to report crimes to the FBI, but it has faced resistance.
The maritime attorneys at Schechter McElwee Shaffer and Harris represent victims of cruise ship accidents across the United States and international waters.
BP CEO Admits Company Was Not Prepared for Oil Spill
So after apologizing for displaying brazen insensitivity toward the families of the 11 workers who were killed in the oil rig explosion last month, BP CEO Tony Hayward is at it again – putting his foot in the mouth.
This week, BP’s CEO spewed a highly invaluable piece of wisdom – the company was simply not equipped with the tools necessary to contain an oil spill as large as the one that is now inching towards the East Coast. Hayward admitted that his company had been found wanting when it came to plugging the leak.
That profound statement came after an apology that Hayward was forced to issue after making a blatantly and horribly insensitive remark. On Sunday, Hayward said that he would like for the leak to be plugged as soon as possible, so he could have his life back. It was a shockingly insensitive statement to make to the families of the 11 men who died when the Transocean-owned rig, Deepwater Horizon went up in flames, and it shocked maritime lawyers, the public and legislators around the country to the core.
With 19 million gallons of oil already leaked into the Gulf of Mexico, large blobs of oil heading to the Florida coastline in time for summer tourist season, and uncertainty about fishing activity on Louisiana’s coastlines, it’s appalling to hear that BPs CEO “wants his life back.” Considering that the explosion was the biggest in recent history and that the spill has surpassed the Exxon Valdez disaster, Hayward has some gall talking the way he did.
U.S. Asks Court to Reject Transocean Liability Cap
The U.S. government has asked a federal judge to reject Transocean Ltd.’s application for Limitation of Liability in which it sought to limit its liability to $27 million for claims tied to the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and subsequent oil spill.
The filing comes the same day the Justice Department announced an investigation of whether any criminal or civil laws were violated in the BP Plc oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the biggest U.S. spill on record. The government is reviewing whether there were violations of the Clean Water Act and the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.
The U.S. filed the motion in Houston federal court. The spill began after an April 20 fire aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig, which London-based BP leased from Switzerland-based Transocean to drill its Macondo well in the Gulf.
The Limitation of Liability Act of 1851 is pre-empted by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 and the claims of state governments are also not subject to the limitation act,
The case is In Re the Complaint and Petition of Triton Asset Leasing GmbH, Transocean Holdings LLC, 10-01721, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas (Houston).