Maritime Workers Appreciation & How They Benefit the Economy
The maritime industry is a major part of the United States economy. Many people do not realize the importance of this industry, let alone appreciate the workers who hold jobs in various segments. Our maritime attorneys, here at Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., would like take a moment to recognize maritime workers and the risks of onshore and offshore accidents they face every day while helping benefit our nation’s economy.
What Do Maritime Workers Do?
Maritime workers operate in numerous business segments of this industry, which includes:
- Oil and Gas
- Hospitality and Tourism
- Ship Building
- Port Freight Imports/Exports
Within each specific industrial segment, there are numerous types of job opportunities, from working on cruise ships and cargo vessels to drilling operations on oil rigs. According to the National Ocean Policy Coalition (NOPC), there are more than 28 million people working in maritime-related industries, which accounts for one out of every six jobs in the United States.1
Even when the country was going through an economic downturn during the Great Recession, the maritime industry was booming. Today, the job outlook for this industry continues to be favorable, with growth expected for the foreseeable future.
What Are Some of the Job Conditions for Maritime Workers?
Many maritime workers spend a great deal of time working in the outdoors. They do not have the luxury of only working when it is sunny outside. Many have to work in inclement weather, including rain, thunderstorms, tropical storms, and hurricanes, as well as extreme and hazardous conditions.
For instance, on oil and gas rigs, as well as shipping and cruise vessels, workers are doing a wide range of functions, including:
- Performing maintenance and repairs.
- Using different types of equipment.
- Working in the engine room.
- Ensuring electricity is generated ship-wide.
- Securing riggings, moorings, anchors, and other large objects.
- Moving cargo and other shipping containers.
- Ensuring the safety of passengers.
In addition, most maritime workers tend to work much longer than your typical “9 to 5” job. Most work a minimum of twelve hours—sometimes longer. Furthermore, many workers work seven days a week and do not get full days off. Rather, they get a set number of hours off in between their scheduled shifts and/or required working hours.
As you can see, working in maritime-related industries requires dedication and commitment. These workers are responsible for many of the products, goods, and services we take for granted. Without their tireless efforts, it would greatly impact our economy and our quality of life.
What Risks Do Maritime Workers Face?
Aside from the harsh and extreme working conditions, there can be other risks, just like in other types of jobs. Some of the more common risks are slips, trips, and falls. Ships’ decks can become slippery when they get wet. Workers can trip over ropes, cables, and other objects left in walkways when not clearly marked.
Then there are risks of falls from elevated heights, as well as off of the sides of ships and oil rigs. Many of the job environments have additional risks that could result in personal injuries and on-the-job accidents. For instance, on oil rigs, there are increased hazards of offshore accidents from explosions and fires.
Employers are responsible for ensuring working conditions are kept safe, and they should provide proper training to help reduce the risks of accidents and injuries. Unfortunately, even when employers take specific measures to help protect their workers, accidents can and do still occur.
The extent of on-the-job accidents can range from minor cuts and scrapes to more serious injuries, like broken bones, burns, and even death, in some cases. Employees should always report injuries to their employers, no matter how minor, as this could affect their right to file a claim. Employers are required by law to document reported minor injuries, as well as more serious injuries and deaths.
How Do Maritime Workers Help the Economy?
In 1920, a piece of legislation called the Merchant Act of 1920 was passed. This act has become to be known today as the Jones Act. Aside from the protections it provides workers who are injured on the job, there are other specific provisions regarding maritime laws and maritime industries.
Namely, that any cargo-transporting ships moving cargo between United States ports must be built in U.S. shipyards, owned and operated by U.S. companies, and staffed with crews consisting of U.S. citizens.2 For instance, cargo is delivered from overseas to the Port of Miami. Part of this cargo is destined for Houston. In order to transport the cargo by sea, it must now be loaded onto a U.S. built ship and operated by a U.S. crew to move the cargo from the Port of Miami to the Port of Houston.
According to statistics from the NOPC:1
- Ninety-five of the United States’ foreign trade is transported by U.S. maritime ships and workers.
- S. ships transport 2 billion tons of cargo and freight in and out of U.S ports.
- Over one-third of the United States’ Gross National Product comes from maritime industries.
- Of all U.S. freight imports and exports, close to 80% comes through our ports.
- S. coastal states support more than 80% of the U.S. economy.
- In 2004, over $5.6 trillion was the result of maritime industries and coastal states’ economies.
- The amount of revenue generated from maritime industries accounts for double the amount of revenue generated by the United Kingdom’s economy.
Based on this data, it is evident maritime industries and maritime workers contribute significantly to the United States economy.
What Rights Do Maritime Workers Have When Injured?
When more serious injuries and deaths occur, the employees or their families should consult with a maritime law firm to find out their legal rights and options. Unlike the laws used with other types of personal injury cases, maritime workers have specific protections and an entirely different set of laws are outlined by the Jones Act, which also includes remedies under Maintenance and Cure for maritime workers.
Keep in mind, the provisions of the Jones Act do not necessarily apply to international cargo trade vessels or the cruise industry. However, U.S. citizens working on international cargo ships and cruise ships which enter and leave U.S. ports often have legal rights and protections under other maritime laws and, possibly, the Jones Act, too.
If you work on one of these types of ships and want to know what rights and protections you have, please feel free to contact our law firm and speak with one of our maritime lawyers.
Additionally, maritime workers do not have to work on ships or offshore rigs to be afforded the protections under the Jones Act and Maintenance and Cure. Dock workers, ship builders, and workers in other such jobs could also benefit from specific legal rights.
The next time you are filling your car up with gas, buying imported goods from overseas, or taking a well-deserved cruise vacation, take a moment to appreciate the maritime workers that made it possible.
If you have or a loved one has been injured doing a maritime-related job and are not sure of your rights or how to file a claim against the employer, please feel free to contact Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P. at 713-893-0971 today. Our maritime lawyers provide sound legal advice and assistance to maritime workers and their families, not just here in Texas but, also, in other major port states, like Florida, New Orleans, Washington, California, and more.