Will Bigger Vessels Mean Bigger Problems for Container Ship Workers?

This past January, the Washington Post reported that the $5.25 billion expansion of the Panama Canal was officially half-complete, but Reuters reported last month that Chinese company HKND Group won a concession to design, build and manage a $40 billion canal in Nicaragua. Why build a canal only a few hundred miles from one that is already being expanded?

As CNN noted, the canal in Nicaragua could make geographical sense since it is only 12 miles between the Pacific Ocean and Lake Nicaragua, which flows into the Caribbean Sea and, thus, the Atlantic Ocean. For the country itself, proponents claim the canal would nearly double Nicaragua’s GDP. Additionally, CNN reported that the Panama Canal authority’s figures say that the average is 25.66 hours for waiting time and transiting combined.

Perhaps the biggest reason for a second canal in Central America is the increase in “post-Panamax” ships, also called “Triple-Es.” According to the Post, these newer and substantially larger vessels are 190 feet tall from the water line, or nearly twice the height of the Lincoln Memorial. Danish shipbuilder Maersk says the Triple-Es can carry 18,000 containers, and this video shows what 18,000 containers would look like if they were stacked in Times Square.

While the emergence of Triple-Es has led many observers to note that several ports in the United States will need to be updated, with one report from Colliers International estimated that ports will need to secure $3.6 trillion by 2020 for infrastructure improvements in order to be post-Panamax ready. However, another aspect that should be addressed with Triple-Es is the safety of workers aboard these vessels. Last July, two workers died and one went missing and was presumed dead when the MV MSC FLAMINIA caught fire after leaving Charelston, South Carolina. It took nearly 10 days before officials said the fire was under control. In 2010, Lloyd’s List reported that it took 11 days to extinguish a fire on another container ship, THE CHARLOTTE MAERSK. Both fires apparently started after a container explosion.

While companies all over the globe want to maximize the efficiency of their shipping time on the water, the safety of their employees needs to be the paramount concern. If you sustained burn injuries or your loved one was killed in a container ship accident, fill out the form on this page to have our Jones Act lawyers review your case or contact our firm at (800) 392-6072 to set up a free consultation.

Latti & Anderson LLP – Jones Act attorneys

Latti & Anderson’s Little Extra: According to the Post, post-Panamax ships make up 16 percent of the world’s container fleet but carry 45 percent of the cargo.