The federal Ports and Waterways Safety Program establishes rules for safe operation of vessels. Violations may result in injury or death of a maritime employee.
How the Ports and Waterways Safety Program Prevents Injury
The program outlines maritime safety in American ports and U.S. navigable waterways by establishing protocols on safe navigation. These rules exist not only to protect people from injury, but also to preserve and protect the integrity of the marine environment, ports and property. These rules serve to:
• provide safe traffic routes for navigable vessels;
• designate permissible times of entry, movement and departure; and
• place limits on the size and speed of vessels as well as draft limitations and operating conditions.
The rules outlined above give specified local, state and federal agencies the power to enact safety protocols based on:
• the likelihood of hazard or risk and the degree of potential injury;
• the characteristics of each type of navigable vessel and cargo;
• the layout of ports and maritime waterways, including specificity of region, climate and other factors;
• the potential for concurrent activities that may conflict with vessel traffic, including oil drilling, commercial or recreational fishing, and other endeavors;
• environmental/ecological concerns;
• the economic impact of vessel traffic and regulations; and
• any existing traffic patterns, services and agreements.
Some of the other issues addressed in the Ports and Waterways Safety Program include the government’s right to establish minimum safety requirements for equipment and cargo in order to protect workers in the event of fire, explosion or natural disaster.
The rules also give authorities the right to establish procedures for the safe handling (loading, unloading, storing, transporting) of any equipment or materials that pose a risk for fire or explosion. Examples include natural gas, oil and other potentially hazardous materials that a maritime worker may encounter on a regular basis.
Violating the Rules of the Ports and Waterways Safety Program
Ship captains, crew, vessel owners and maritime companies are legally obligated to adhere to state and federal laws established under the Ports and Waterways Safety Program. Those who fail to do so face civil and criminal penalties in addition to opening themselves up to liability in the case of injury, death or property damage on maritime waterways.