Container ships, a type of cargo ship, have revolutionized how cargo supplies are transported across the world, providing assurance of safety and security of the ferried containers. Some of the biggest shipping companies today deal mainly with containerized forms of cargo.

Container vessels are among the largest ships ever constructed so container ship workers assume big responsibilities. If one of the largest container ships was stood on end it would easily be taller than the Empire State Building. That’s a lot of real estate, and it’s almost all devoted to ferrying cargo containers from international port to international port.

The largest ships are well over 1,300 feet long. And yet, for all that size, most container vessels have a crew of no more than 20-30 people. Because of the limited crew and the length of their international journeys, container vessels can sometimes become targets for piracy.

But container ship workers also need to be ready for the possibility of accidents on board. Due in part to their sheer size, accidents on board container vessels can have dire consequences for workers if proper safety training isn’t in place. In international waters, even on well-established routes, container ship workers must often deal with the unknown and the unpredictable. When that unpredictability is interspersed with long periods of routine activity, maintaining safety can be a challenge.

Common Types of Container Vessel Accidents

There are significant challenges to safety on any container ship. The size of the vessel and scope of the mission mean that most containers are loaded directly onto the deck of the ship, where they stay for the remainder of the journey. Maintaining cargo integrity on rough seas can be particularly daunting, but it’s not the only possible accident type that container vessels may encounter.

Common types of container vessel accidents might include:

  • Container Ships
    Collisions
    – There have been several high profile collisions involving container vessels in the past. In 2017, a U.S. Navy destroyer collided with a container vessel off the coast of Japan. In part, container vessel accidents happen because they are exceptionally difficult to steer in crowded waterways, so reactions to incoming navigation threats take a significant amount of time.
  • Falls –  The largest container vessels can be several stories tall. So falling from height is an unfortunately common accident — and an accident type that is somewhat uncommon on other vessels. Falls from height can cause significant injuries, and, of course, those injuries will depend on the height fallen from.
  • Sliding cargo — Containers on any cargo vessel need to be carefully secured. Unsecured containers can cause havoc on a ship, resulting in accidents anywhere from injuries to crew members to dangerously destabilizing the equilibrium of the entire vessel. Even when every precaution is taken to secure containers, rough seas can sometimes take a toll. According to industry estimates, 10,000 containers fall off cargo ships every year.
  • Chemical or hazardous material spills – Container vessels regularly carry hazardous chemicals as cargo. When this cargo spills on board, special steps must be taken to ensure the safety of all crew members on board. Failure to do so can result in a wide range of injuries, some of which may have very long term repercussions even if treatment is immediately administered.

Container ship workers must contend with a myriad of possible accidents. This list is by no means comprehensive, and there are many types of accidents that can leave workers injured. The experienced attorneys at Montagna Maritime Law have seen many injuries first-hand as we’ve worked with clients to secure compensation for their medical bills.

Causes of Container Ship Accidents

Accidents involving container vessels can happen for any number of reasons, from human error to sudden storms. In 2015, the container ship El Faro was sunk off the coast of the Bahamas as it tried to make a run through Hurricane Joaquin. But the Coast Guard investigation also assigned blame to the ship’s owners, captain, and crew — meaning that any such disaster is likely caused by systemic problems.

Causes of container vessel accidents can include:

  • Unpredictable inclement weather
  • Questionable decision-making
  • Negligence
  • Improper training
  • Lax maintenance
  • Inconsistent enforcement of safety protocols or policies
  • Improper placement of or failure to secure cargo
  • Leaking of hazardous material from cargo containers

The precise cause of an accident can have significant repercussions for container vessel workers who suffer injuries at sea.

Understanding Your Rights if You’re Injured on a Container Ship

If you’ve been seriously injured while working aboard a container ship, it’s crucial that you get legal advice so you know your rights and what you may be entitled to under maritime law. Many container ships operate under various international flags. That’s why it’s important to have an attorney by your side who specializes in maritime law and the international conventions that govern how accidents at sea are treated.

Under the Jones Act, seamen injured in container vessel accidents are entitled to Maintenance and Cure — that is, entitled to payments for lost wages and medical expenses. This is the case, no matter who is at fault. However, in cases where fault is found, either through insufficient training, negligence, or other reasons, injured container ship workers may be entitled to even more.

The attorneys at Montagna Maritime Law have helped protect the rights of many seamen who have suffered serious and often life-changing injuries. We’re on your side so you can focus on your health and your family.