2018 was an eventful year in the offshore and maritime industries. Disasters, court decisions, changing regulations and new technology all made the news this year. With so much going on it was difficult to make a decision, but after much consideration, here’s a recap of what we feel are the most important events and developments of the past year:
1. Defective PFDs
The United States Coast Guard issued a safety alert after inspections by Coast Guard personnel discovered a significant number of defective Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) onboard several vessels.
2. Trump Administration eases Obama-Era safety rules for oil and gas production
The Trump Administration decided to ease safety rules for offshore oil and gas production that were put in place by the Obama Administration in response to the 2010 Horizon Deepwater disaster. These include the regulations placed on BUDs to prevent future accidents.
3. Maritime Case Ruling Allows for Punitive Damages
In the case of Butterton v. Dutra Group, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a district court ruling that punitive damages are available to seamen in general maritime law unseaworthiness actions. The ruling contradicts 2014 plurality decision from the 5th Circuit. The case is now before the U.S. Supreme Court.
4. The Maersk Honam Catches Fire – One of the Worst Container Ship Disasters Ever
The ultra large container ship (ULCS) Maersk Hunam, one of the biggest vessels afloat, caught fire in the Arab Sea. The vessel was loaded with 7,860 containers when a fire broke out in one of the holds. Five crewmembers died as a result of the accident; the fire burned for over a week and was so large at one point that it was visible from space.
5. Bankruptcy Courts Don’t Have Authority in Cases Involving Maritime Law
In the case of Barnes v. Hawaii Rafting, LLC. 16-15023, the U.S. Court of Appeals reversed an earlier decision, ruling that a bankruptcy court does not have authority to dispose of a maritime lien through application of bankruptcy law.
6. Crane Accidents on the Increase
Crane and lifting related accidents are one of the leading causes of offshore fatalities, second only to fires and explosions. Surprise inspections were conducted over the summer by the U.S. Interior Department in response to a growing number of crane and lifting accidents. While they found many problems, regulations addressing these issue have yet to be enacted.
7. Automation Aims to Make Offshore Work Safer
Automation is going offshore. This article on Phys.org is one of many covering efforts to make offshore work safer through the application of automated monitoring systems that utilize robots, sensors and other technology to inspect for gas leaks and other hazards.
8. Mental Health and Maritime Workers
Not all maritime injuries are physical ones. Isolation, stress, fatigue, harassment, and drug and alcohol abuse are just a few of the mental health issues affecting shipboard workers.
2018 has seen a growing awareness of the mental health issues many shipboard workers experience. New policies, guidelines and support services have been put into place to diagnose and address mental health issues before they become a problem.
9. 17 Killed in Duckboat Disaster
A duckboat capsized and sank on Table Rock Lake in Missouri during a severe thunderstorm. 17 passengers lost their lives in the disaster. The duck boat’s captain, Kenneth Scott McKee, has been charged with misconduct and negligence, including ignoring warnings of bad weather, failing to head for shore when the storm struck and failing to tell passengers to put on their life jackets and abandon ship when the boat’s bilge alarm sounded.
Branson Ride the Ducks, the company that owned the duck boat, faces multiple lawsuits filed by the relatives of victims. The case is still ongoing.
10. U.S. Becomes World’s Largest Producer of Oil
This year, the United States surpassed Russia and Saudi Arabia to become the largest producer of crude oil in the world. Increased oil production in the Gulf of Mexico and other locations helped put the U.S. into the #1 spot.
The Lambert Firm: One of 2018’s leading Maritime Injury Law Firms
The Lambert Firm has been defending the rights of injured maritime and offshore workers for over 40 years. We are experienced with all maritime laws and how they can benefit an injured worker’s case. If you are a maritime worker who suffered an on-the-job injury, contact The Lambert Firm today to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced maritime injury attorneys.