Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Maritime Risk Management Needed for Financial Safety

For vessel owners and captains engaged in commercial fisheries, maritime risk management is a critical financial safety first, says Seattle maritime insurance executive Chris Trainer.

Attention to state and federal laws and regulations, proper safety equipment, proper training of crew, and proper operation and maintenance of vessels in all weather conditions can result in savings of millions of dollars, Trainer told fishermen participating in the recent ComFish 2014 forums at Kodiak.

Preventive steps may be taken, from hiring procedures to vessel maintenance, but vessel owners should also have proper maritime insurance for unforeseen events, to avoid millions of dollars in insurance claims, he said.

Among the real life examples Trainer cited was a $2.35 million Jones act verdict for a deckhand who suffered a crushed foot injury aboard a scallop boat. The vessel was found to be unseaworthy and negligent when the moving deck hatch rolled over the deckhand’s foot on the board.

Another Jones Act verdict of $1.4 million was handed down for the death of a crewman who fell from a Jacob’s ladder while transferring between vessels. The vessel was cited for improper training in man overboard procedures.

It is important, said Trainer, for vessel owners to identify, characterize and assess threats to safety of the vessel and those on board, and identify ways to reduce those risks. Insurance is one form of risk management used to hedge against such losses.

The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, also known as the Jones Act, adopted by Congress back in 1920, allows injured seamen to make claims and collect from their employers for negligence of the ship owner, the captain or fellow crew members. Legal action under the Jones Act may be brought either in federal or state courts, and the seaman is entitled to a jury trial.

Jones Act remedies also include unearned wages, wage losses, future medical needs, pain and suffering, and permanent or partial disability.

And there are plenty more reasons for vessel owners and captains to employ risk management, to avoid violation of federal and state pollution laws, Trainer said.

Vessel owners should also consider pollution liability stand-alone policy coverage, which covers clean up, third party property damage, civil penalties and criminal fines, loss of revenues and profits by third parties, loss of public services and more, he said.

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