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October 16th, 2009

Jones Act Seamen on Alaskan Vessels Prepare For Hectic Crabbing Season

As maritime lawyers often see, the life of an Alaskan fishing vessel crew member can be unduly dangerous. The risky crabbing season for some of these fishermen is soon to begin.

The Coast Guard and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game are gearing up in preparation for the high number of crabbing vessels that will be operating in the Bering Sea, as the 2009-2010 crabbing season begins. The Coast Guard has already deployed several assets, including a helicopter to the Aleutian Island Chain and the Bering Sea to allow it to conduct rapid response actions in case of emergencies.

The Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment in Unalaska examined 41of the 93 vessels that have been registered for Red King crab fishing.  It found no overload of crab pots on any of the vessels, but did find several safety deficiencies including expired life rafts and EPIRB batteries.  The Coast guard also conducted safety training at the local harbor in Unalaska, giving out safety information on survival suits, life traps and conducting flare training.

The Bering Sea crabbing season is a highly competitive one, and vessels vie with each other to harvest the highly lucrative king crab. Unfortunately, a rich crab harvest may sometimes come at the expense of the safety of crew members.

Working on a crabbing boat at the height of crabbing season can be hectic. Crewmembers work long hours, often working late into the night. Their job involves throwing overboard large and heavy crab pots, that can weight up to 700 pounds each. Decks are slippery and wet almost all the time. There may be dangerous and complicated equipment on board, placing fishermen in danger of injuries.

A crabbing vessel crew member may qualify as a Jones Act seaman if he

  • Is assigned to a vessel or fleet of vessels
  • If the vessel is in navigation
  • If he contributes to the mission of the vessel

A fishermen who qualifies as a Jones Act seaman may be eligible for a number of rights, including the right to maintenance and cure during the time he is injured and unable to return to work, as well as damages if the employer’s negligence contributed to his injury.

The maritime lawyers at Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., Accident & Injury Lawyers are trial attorneys representing crew members of cargo ships, commercial fishing vessel crew members, barge and tugboat operators, cruise liner crews, offshore rig workers, jack-up rig workers, tanker and freighter crews and other workers who qualify for Jones Act seaman status, in injury and wrongful death litigation.

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