After losing her husband in a maritime tragedy, Rochelle Hamm is pushing for a new alert system to prevent similar tragedies. The alert would function something like an air traffic control system does for planes. At present, shipping companies have substantial autonomy to send ships into dangerous conditions. The proposed alert system would prevent companies and boat captains from endangering crews by sending them into unsafe weather conditions.
Frank Hamm was one of 33 people killed when his ship went down in Hurricane Joaquin in 2015. Black box data retrieved from the wreckage indicates that members of the crew tried to dissuade the captain from his dangerous course. The captain had inaccurate weather data, and chose to try to skirt the edge of the storm rather than turn back. A more reliable system could have averted this disaster.
Maritime safety lags behind others in the transportation hierarchy. Maritime workers suffer injuries and fatalities far too often. Workers deserve stronger protections from their employers and from government regulators. For its part, the National Transportation Safety Board suggested that it would include the alert system among its recommendations when the investigation into the crash is complete.
Workers in the maritime industry are exposed to dangers few jobs can match. Even after an industry, workers must negotiate a complicated and confusing array of laws and obstacles to obtain needed compensation. Any plan to remove or reduce the hazards faced by maritime workers deserves our full attention.
Source: Claims Journal, "El Faro Widow Calls for Safer Shipping," by Jason Dearen, 13 April 2017