Any maritime worker or recreational boating enthusiast will be aware that there are a number of dangerous risks related with working offshore – maritime workers complain of back pain, electrocution injuries, head injuries, injuries leading to loss of hearing, near-drowning incidents and severe disabilities such as brain damage and paralysis. Although some of these injuries are incurred in accidents that could not have been prevented, most can be avoided if care and consideration is taken to ensure that the offshore working environment is as safe as possible.

In some cases, human negligence can be the cause of serious injuries and can even put people’s lives in danger. A recent trial that concluded in Miami, Florida showed the role that human error can play in the accidents that occur off shore. A ship surveyor from Miami was convicted last month by a federal jury on counts of obstruction of justice, fraud and lying to the coast guard, and may face up to five years in prison for each count.

The 60 year old gentleman, an experienced ship surveyor, was found to have lied to the coast guard on three separate occasions and to have falsely certified ships to be seaworthy and safe. In doing so, the ship surveyor put the lives of all of the seamen and women working on these ships at risk.

The first transgression by the surveyor occurred in April 2009, when he claimed that the Cala Galdana, a 68 meter long cargo ship, was dry docked in Colombia. However, this claim was later found to be false. The surveyor also falsely certified a 92 meter long cargo ship as safe for sea in December of 2009, when in fact the ship was not seaworthy. US Coast Guard investigators inspected the ship after complaints about the ship’s emissions, and it was found to have unsafe levels of fuel and exhaust fumes being emitted from the engine room. The fumes were found to be at toxic levels, and indicated a problem in the engine that could have led to engine failure with untold consequences for the ship, the crew and the environment. The effect of the toxic fumes on the crew are yet to be determined, and further investigations are currently being conducted by the Environmental Crimes Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division.

The ship surveyor is expected to be sentenced for his charges in August of this year.



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