Ship Salvage Accidents

Removing and recovering a ship and its cargo after an accident is a process known as ship salvage. Because of its specifics, ship salvage can be a dangerous process. Salvage assistance will typically be required after sinking, a collision or a mechanical failure of the vessel. Depending on the specifics of the situation and the condition of the vessel, professionals involved in ship salvage may be exposed to risks that can potentially result in injuries.

Common Risks and Dangers

Salvage work is linked to various dangers. A few of the most common risks include the following:

  • Overboard falls and drowning
  • Hypothermia
  • Fires and inhalation of toxic fumes
  • Falls and crushing risks
  • Heavy equipment and crane operation injuries
  • Poisoning
  • Underwater risks (especially when the salvage process involves diving)

Thus, salvage workers deal with the common dangers that sailors are exposed to and a number of specialized perils. The process is highly unique every single time, depending on the vessel’s condition, its location and the specifics of the accident that took place.

Sometimes, workers will have to use heavy equipment. In other instances, ship component dismantling may be required. Diving and underwater work pose additional dangers. Unless all safety precautions are followed, workers involved in such processes could face serious injuries and even death.

Examples of Ship Salvage Accidents

Over the years, there have been many examples of salvage projects gone wrong.

One of the newest instances involved Costa Concordia – a cruise ship that had to be removed from the Mediterranean Sea. The removal of the ship was a lengthy process that cost more than one billion dollars, and that continued for a period of two years.

On February 1, 2014, a Spanish diver lost his life in the Costa Concordia removal process. While working under water and preparing the vessel for removal, the diver gashed his leg on a metal sheet. The profuse bleeding and the diver’s inability to swim to the surface on his own contributed to his death.

Types of Salvage

The risk of injuries and death depends on the type of salvage that will have to be performed.

Offshore salvage is an operation that usually features a sunken or a stranded ship in open waters. Usually, this is the most challenging type of removal. The waves and weather conditions could make the work of divers and sailors exceptionally difficult.

Harbor salvage is much less challenging. This procedure focuses on sunken and stranded ships in the sheltered water. In this instance, the impact of environmental factors is limited. Unless the vessel is blocking the passage of others, there will also be no need to deal with the situation quickly.

Ship wreck salvage is usually performed to deal with hazardous materials, chemicals, and oil that can have a detrimental impact on the environment after a ship wreck. Oil spills are the most common danger and the one that requires the fastest actions on behalf of the emergency team.

Equipment, cargo and clearance salvages are also common procedures.

Accidents, Laws, and Compensation

Depending on the location of the sunken or stranded ship, recovery workers will either be considered seamen and covered by Jones Act, or they’ll benefit from coverage under another maritime law.

Workers who experience an accident while doing their job could demand financial compensation if they believe that the accident and injury result from negligence. In such instances, the guilty party will be responsible for covering medical expenses, lost wages, future wages, emotional distress and eventually – permanent disability.

The family of a worker who dies as a result of negligence will be entitled to financial compensation, as well.

Talking to a maritime lawyer will be the key to figuring out whether a case could be built on the basis of negligence and if the injured worker could potentially benefit from compensation under the Jones Act or another maritime law.

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