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 

Paul T. Hofmann
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Focused on personal injury, with an emphasis on maritime, railroad and construction worker tort claims.
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Kurt Bruer 02/13/2018 06:26 PM
I knew Frank Hamm and the pleasure of meeting his wife. She is doing good thing to insure our safety at sea. I was on the El Faro 3 months before it sank and saw first hand how the company neglected our safety. I have seen the result of the NTSB investigation and agree with Rear Adm. John Nadeau The two-year-long investigation also concluded that an ineffective safety management system within operating company TOTE Services Inc., American Bureau of Shipping’s failure to resolve safety deficiencies on vessels, and the Coast Guard’s failure to adequately oversee the third party were also all contributory factors in the disaster. In my opinion and I’ve been doing this for 25 years, they need to have the company monitor the ship and stop putting all the decision making all on the captain. It seems that the company weasel there way out of this from the aspect of putting all blame on the captain. I sailed under Davidson and he use to tell stuff on the bridge about being pressured in making tough decisions. We will never know why Captain Davidson made that decision but to have the company put all the blame on him is despicable. I can go on and on about what happened behind closed doors. I just hope they put more attention to our Safety as Mariners. We are hard working people that earned that respect
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Paul Hofmann 02/14/2018 04:23 PM
“Pride goeth before a fall” says Proverbs, in the Bible. And so it was played out where the El Faro captain knew better than his subordinates that the storm into which he sailed would not sink his ship. The A.B’s, the bosun, the female mate and the ordinary seamen knew that this was a bad idea, however, the captain knew better. But what is worse is the description the Marine Inquiry gives of the ship’s owner/operator’s total failure to see what was to be seen and to guide the ship from harm’s way. It is a case of wilful ignorance. Having handled seafarer’s claims for over 35 years, and having come to respect and understand those hard working men and women and the difficult job they do, we extend our sympathy to the loved ones and friends of those intrepid workers. I shudder to think what it must have been like to be trapped in that rusting steel coffin. God bless them.
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