Cargo Ship Accident Lawyers

Injured in an Accident on a Cargo Ship? Call (888) 346-5024!

Cargo ships are large maritime vessels used to transport freight from one port to another. These ships play a crucial role in international maritime commerce. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTD), world maritime trade reached 11 billion tons of cargo in 2021. As the industry continues to grow, so does the likelihood of fires, collisions, groundings, and cargo vessel losses at sea.

Accidents involving cargo ships can be extremely dangerous. Whether they involve incidents on deck, collisions with other vessels, or encounters with extreme weather and rough seas, they place crews at risk of suffering catastrophic injuries or losing their lives.

Arnold & Itkin has fought for cargo ship crews and their families for the past two decades. Our attorneys have helped after the worst cargo vessel incidents in history, such as the loss of the El Faro and her entire 33-person crew in Hurricane Joaquin. We helped three of the lost crew members’ wives get answers and see justice served. When maritime employers and cargo shipowners place profits above safety, we stand up for what’s right.

To find out how we can help after a cargo ship accident, call (888) 346-5024 or contact us online. Your consultation is completely free.

Types of Cargo Ships & Their Purposes

There are various types of cargo ships, each equipped with specific features and amenities to ensure the safe and efficient transport of its designated cargo. Cargo ships are used worldwide in oceans and inland waterways.

The main types of cargo ships include:

  • Bulk Carriers: These ships are designed to transport large quantities of bulk cargo, such as coal, grain, ore, or cement. They can be further divided based on their size.
  • Container Ships: These are designed to carry standardized cargo containers. Their capacity is often measured in twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs). They range from smaller feeder ships to Ultra Large Container Vessels (ULCV).
  • Tankers: These ships transport liquid cargo. They can be classified further, as: oil tankers, used for transporting crude oil; product tankers, used for refined petroleum products like gasoline; chemical tankers, used for transporting chemicals; and LNG and LPG carriers, designed for liquefied natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas, respectively.
  • General Cargo Vessels: General cargo vessels are ships that carry a variety of goods, often packaged, and are typically used for shorter routes and in less busy ports. They vary greatly in size and cargo capacity.
  • Reefer Ships: Reefer ships are specialized vessels designed for safely transporting perishable goods that require refrigeration, like fruit, meat, or dairy products. They keep cargo temperature controlled through the entire voyage.
  • Ro-Ro (Roll-on/Roll-off) Ships: Ro-ro vessels are designed to carry vehicles, such as passenger cars and trucks. Vehicles can be driven directly onto the ship, where they are then secured for transport.
  • Multi-Purpose Vessels: These ships are designed to handle different types of cargo and can adapt to various loading scenarios, carrying a combination of bulk, break-bulk, and container cargo.
  • Livestock Carriers: As the name suggests, these ships are specially equipped to transport live animals such as cattle, horses, sheep, or other livestock, ensuring their welfare during the journey.
  • Heavy Lift Vessels: Heavy lift cargo vessels are specially equipped with heavy cranes to handle particularly heavy or oversized cargo, such as machinery, industrial parts, or even other ships.

Heavy Lift Ship Accidents

Heavy lift ships are vessels created to move large, heavy, or oddly shaped loads across the water. Created back in the 1920s, these powerful vessels are known to carry massive cargo. From entire oil platforms to derricks weighing countless tons, heavy lift ships can move nearly any size load. 

When moving such heavy cargo around, it can take a serious amount of effort. Even though modern equipment, practices, and technology are used to load and secure the cargo, crew members and other workers are still susceptible to injuries whenever massive cargo is involved. Basic procedures to better secure the cargo or unload it at the final destination can become much more complex than regular-sized cargo practices.

Some of the most common causes of heavy lift ship accidents include:

  • Lack of proper training for the crew
  • Mechanical defects or malfunctions
  • Lack of maintenance or repairs

If the entire crew is not properly prepared for procedures or there is any type of error, the risk of an accident can increase. Failure to create a proper loading plan and strategy can also lead to major accidents, putting all workers at risk. 

Types of Cargo Ship Accidents

Cargo ships, with their vast size and intricate operations, are prone to a variety of accidents both while docked in port and out at sea. These accidents not only jeopardize the integrity of the vessel and its valuable cargo but can also pose significant risks to the crew onboard. 

Collisions, Groundings & Foundering

Like any maritime vessel, a cargo ship may be at risk of striking another vessel or sinking. Grounding occurs when a cargo ship inadvertently hits the seabed, often due to navigational errors or system failures. Collisions refer to a ship coming into contact with another moving object, usually another vessel, while allisions involve a ship hitting a stationary object like a pier or buoy. A cargo vessel may capsize as a result of uneven weight distribution, system failures, or severe weather conditions. Foundering is the ultimate cargo ship disaster, where a ship becomes completely submerged, often due to significant structural damage, water ingress, or catastrophic failures.

Loss-of-Propulsion Accidents

When cargo ships lose power and steering—especially in tight spaces such as ports and harbors—these large vessels can cause devastating damage upon collision. One of the more recent examples of such a disaster occurred in the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, the result of a cargo ship intermittently losing power and losing steering shortly after embarking. While moving at a mere eight knots (or about nine miles per hour), a vessel of its size was able to bring a massive bridge tumbling down. 

Weather & Pirates

The sheer force of natural calamities, especially severe storms and hurricanes, can be challenging for cargo ships to navigate, leading to potential damage or losses if they are negligently operated. Container ships may also be the target of maritime pirates, who will attempt to board the vessel and gain control of its cargo. This endangers crew members, who may be attacked and taken hostage. Piracy is more common in certain waters than in others.

Cargo ship crews may also be harmed in accidents involving:

  • Falling Objects: Due to the ship's motion or improper stowage, objects might fall, posing risks to nearby crew.
  • Fires and Explosions: Caused by faults, fuel leaks, or hazardous cargo, these can lead to devastating damage. 
  • Sliding Cargo: Improperly secured cargo can slide, causing imbalances or damaging other containers.
  • Slip and Fall Accidents: Wet and slippery decks can result in crew members slipping, tripping, or falling. 
  • Falls Overboard: Falling overboard is a risk if a worker is struck by an object or slips and falls.
  • Equipment Malfunctions: Faulty or poorly maintained equipment can malfunction, leading to various accidents.
  • Machinery Accidents: The machinery on a cargo vessel can pose risks if not used or maintained correctly.
  • Falls from Heights: Workers can fall from significant heights on the ship, during maintenance or other operations.
  • Chemical Spills: Some cargo ships transport hazardous materials, presenting a risk of chemical spills.

Injuries on Cargo Ships

Work on a cargo vessel is physically demanding, and it is performed in an environment where there is heavy machinery, rough seas, volatile substances, and harsh weather to deal with. When shipowners and operators do not take the steps to ensure the safety of their crews, serious injuries may result.

Cargo ship accidents can cause:

The worst cargo ship accidents are fatal.

Seamen who have been injured on cargo vessels have the right to seek compensation for their medical care, ongoing treatment, lost earnings, and more. Maintenance and cure is one of a seaman’s most basic rights, but the Jones Act also allows for the recovery of compensation for pain and suffering and other losses if negligence is involved. 

Working on a cargo ship may have inherent dangers, but this does not excuse any accidents that do occur. All maritime workers have the right to a safe work environment.

Reach Out to Our Cargo Ship Accident Attorneys

If you were injured or lost someone you love in a cargo ship accident, do not wait to get the counsel you need. At Arnold & Itkin, we have unmatched experience with all types of maritime injury claims, including those involving cargo ships, the loading and unloading of vessels, and more. We understand the intricacies of the Jones Act and general maritime law, and how these apply to cargo vessels in national and international waters. 

To find out how we can help you, call (888) 346-5024. Your consultation is free!

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