There are many different ways Jones Act seamen may be transferred on and off their vessels. While gangways and boats are the most common ways of going from ship to shore, these methods are impractical when dropping off or picking up crew members who are miles from land. Jones Act seamen must move between vessels, offshore terminals, and other installations at sea, personnel baskets are a helpful, but dangerous, alternative to helicopter landings.
How Negligence Leads to Jones Act Injuries During Personnel Basket Transfers
Personnel baskets have been used for many years to transfer crews on and off oil rigs, and are increasingly being used to move Jones Act seamen between tankers and cargo vessels. However, crew members who are unfamiliar with the transfer process and equipment may not recognize the risks involved, leading to deadly maritime accidents.
Before conducting personnel transfers by basket, employers and shipowners should take all necessary precautions to minimize injury risks, including:
- Risk assessment. A risk assessment must be conducted before transfers to identify any potential problems with the operation. The assessment should consider the roll and pitch of both vessels, the condition of both ships, the ability of the other vessel to remain stationary, and other potential hazards. A briefing meeting with all personnel on safety, expectations, and duties should be held before the operation begins.
- Crane inspection. Any crane not designed for man-riding (such as hose-handling cranes on tankers) should not be used unless it can be safely adapted for transfers. The crane and all of its fixtures and fittings should be inspected, especially the attachment between the hook and the basket. The crane hook should be equipped with a pennant or stinger with closed securing devices, and the pennant must be long enough to keep the hook and block well clear of the basket.
- Weather considerations. Inclement weather is a common factor in personnel transfer accidents. All measurements should be taken regarding wind speed, swell height, and visibility to ensure they are within man-riding restrictions specified by the crane manufacturer. Even when weather conditions meet these restrictions, conditions may not be safe due to incoming weather changes or the movement of one or both vessels. If the forecast does not allow a suitable weather window to complete the transfer safely (including enough time to allow for complications or contingencies), the operation should be postponed.
- Deck preparation. The deck must be clean, free of debris, and covered with anti-slip material on all walkable surfaces. The basket landing area should be clearly designated and free from obstructions (such as vents, pipes, tank lids, and mooring equipment). Life preservers and flotation devices should be readily available near the crane and landing area. Basket transfers should take place during daylight hours, and a nighttime transfer should only be attempted if the deck is properly illuminated.
- Crane operation. Crane operators must have the necessary training and experience in transferring personnel by basket, and they should be monitored by a second crew member or surveillance device to ensure performance throughout the operation. The crane operator should minimize hook movements caused by the motion of the vessel using the length of the hoist wire, crane hook radius, and jib head height.
- Deck personnel. Jones Act seamen receiving or attending the basket should stand in a position that allows them to move quickly and protects them from the swinging basket. Anyone not actively involved in the movement, loading, or unloading of the basket should keep well clear of the crane, the basket landing area, and the path of the suspended personnel.
Time is of the essence after an injury at sea! If you are a Jones Act seaman injured in a transfer, contact the experienced maritime injury attorneys at Hofmann & Schweitzer as soon as possible. Call 1-800-3-MAY-DAY or fill out our online contact form today to set up a no-obligation consultation. To learn more, download your complimentary copy of our guide, Are You a Seaman Injured in a Maritime Accident? Know Your Rights.