Maritime Industry Voices Concern Over Understaffing and More Paperwork
On April 26, 2012, representatives from the maritime industry testified at a hearing before the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation. They were trying to bring congressional attention to two major problems facing the maritime industry: understaffing of ships and increasing paperwork requirements. They called on Congress to take action to address these issues and help reduce the number of maritime accidents and injuries to workers.
More Rules, Fewer Sailors
Ship workers report being hit with two issues at the same time, which combine to create serious problems for the industry. Staffing on ships is falling. Fewer sailors on ships contributes to problems of overworking and fatigue, which makes ships less safe and increases the probability of accidents – both on the ship itself and between ships.
While staffing is declining, the number of regulations with which ship workers must comply is increasing. These regulations require more documentation, as well. As the maritime industry representatives revealed in their congressional testimony, when it comes to choosing to complete paperwork for international, federal and state regulations or doing routine duties that contribute to safety on the ship, ship workers often have to choose the reporting duties – and put themselves and other crew members at risk.
Studying the Problem
Those testifying before Congress urged lawmakers to address the issue by ordering the U.S. Coast Guard to assess staffing levels and fatigue levels on U.S.-flag ships based on guidelines established by independent specialists in workplace fatigue.
Talk to a Lawyer
Ship owners are responsible for ensuring their ships are sufficiently staffed. They are also liable if accidents happen that injure crew members. They have a duty under the Jones Act to take care of maritime workers injured on the job. If you have been injured in an accident on a ship, consult an experienced maritime attorney who can help you recover the compensation you need to help you while you recover from your injuries.