The Dangers Faced By Workers Trapped Aboard Shipping Vessels

The shipping crisis in American ports right now due to the COVID-19 pandemic will have long-term consequences for every step along the supply chain.

Consumers will have a harder time getting the goods they need, shipping companies will face additional economic strain due to the unsold or unmoved product, and businesses will continue to face shortages well into the new year.

One repercussion of the ongoing shipping crisis that isn’t discussed as often is the dangers faced by the workers trapped on board the ships. While the economic damage is well understood, less focus seems to be placed on the actual crew of each boat, trapped there in the seemingly-endless logjam. But the truth is, they’re just as at risk for injury or accident on a vessel trapped in a port or canal as they would be on a vessel in motion.

Cargo vessel in port at sunset

Accidents & Injuries for Crew Members Stuck At Port

The sort of injuries and dangers a crew member can face when their cargo ship is trapped in a canal or at port, waiting to unload their cargo, can take many forms, each more dangerous than the last.

Exposure to illness or disease

One of the biggest risks faced by workers trapped on cargo ships is the increased risk of communicable disease passing amongst the crew. Any large number of people trapped in that small of a space for that long of a time finds themselves at greater risk for infection, particularly when it comes to easily transmissible diseases like COVID-19. Between an inability to leave the ship for medical treatment and a limited ability to isolate sick workers, these diseases can quickly spread through crewmembers and create a more hazardous environment overall.

Increased risk of hazardous conditions

The longer a crew is onboard a vessel, the higher a chance they’ll be exposed to the dangerous conditions that occur naturally aboard any vessel in motion. Even simple problems like leaks causing slippery surfaces or the buildup of engine fumes get greatly exacerbated if the crew is stuck onboard their vessel for longer periods of time than normal, and can lead to injuries or even serious disease if exposed for too long.

Lack of needed maintenance

The ship itself can contribute to these hazards onboard a cargo ship, as well. Ships trapped at a port, unable to release their cargo or refresh their crews will have difficulty receiving the maintenance they need, due to a lack of staff, available parts, or both. Not only can this contribute to a higher risk of things like engine failure or equipment malfunction, it can also increase the risk of injury from unseaworthy equipment. Oil slicks can lead to slip and fall injuries, broken electrical equipment can increase the risk of shocks and other injuries, even something like a table or chair that’s getting a little too creaky can create additional hazards. 

Mental strain

The dangers and risks aren’t completely physical by any means, either. Working on the water for long periods of time can take a toll on workers’ mental health even under the best of conditions, and being trapped on a cargo ship with no relief or breaks can increase the potential for mental trauma. Many sailors trapped at ports right now, particularly those far from home, have reported increased anxiety, depression, and even suicidal ideation due to the adverse conditions they face every day until the shipping crisis comes to an end – whenever that may be.

Impacted income

For both workers onboard the vessel, and workers waiting to resume work on a vessel trapped at port somewhere in the world, the lack of work can have a huge impact on their income. Vessels trapped at port, or even vessels that are able to deliver their cargo and return to port far later than they were scheduled to, are unable to rotate their crew – this means that the workers waiting for their turn to work and earn money are stuck waiting even longer, and most of the crewmembers trapped onboard the ship are stuck in a financial limbo, unable to resume normal duties.

Are You A Maritime Worker Suffering From The Shipping Crisis?

No matter what impact the shipping crisis has had on your life, if you have suffered as the result of the ongoing shipping crisis, O’Bryan Law may be able to help. Even in extreme cases such as these, maritime companies and shipowners have a responsibility to ensure the safety of their crews – and if you’ve been injured due to the negligence of a shipowner during the shipping crisis, the maritime lawyers of O’Bryan Law can help. Contact us today with the details of your case, and our lawyers can review it to see what can be done.