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Maritime Pilots: Navigating a River of Dangers.

Maritime workers, especially those who work on vessels, have dangerous jobs. Even the smallest error can lead to a serious injury or even death. Seamen live and work in small spaces crammed with equipment. They work long hours and frequently work in bad weather conditions. All of this, plus, in some instances, lack of safety procedures, proper maintenance or training, makes maritime work a treacherous if lucrative, business.

River and Bar Pilots

River and bar pilots are specially-trained mariners that guide vessels through congested or hazardous waters. They usually work on pilot boats in harbors or near river mouths. Harbors are especially dangerous areas to work because of the heavy traffic of other boats and large ships. For example, the Port of South Louisiana is one of the largest volume ports in the United States. Each year, 500 million tons of goods are shipped through the Port of New Orleans, making the Mississippi River barge port system one of the most significant to national trade.

Navigating in river mouths is also difficult due to the changing water speeds and the current flowing into a lake or sea. In the headwaters of the Mississippi, the surface speed of the water is about 1.2 miles per hour. At New Orleans, however, the river flows at about three miles per hour. But that doesn’t mean that the speed is constant. It changes as the water levels rise or fall and in places where the river widens, narrows, becomes more shallow, or some combination of these factors. A river or bar pilot has to be able to handle and adjust to all of these conditions—and more.

All of this makes piloting a boat difficult and dangerous. Many pilots are seriously injured or killed on the job every year.

Rivers are also difficult to operate in because they are either heavily trafficked by large ships of all types or tricky to navigate due to the river’s current flowing into a lake or the sea. Common injuries suffered by river and bar pilots include fractures caused by falls, especially while transferring from one vessel to another.  Falling overboard is also a common danger pilots face. 

River or bar pilots who are injured on the job because of unseaworthiness of the vessel or the negligence of others may be eligible for compensation under general maritime law, the Jones Act, and in some cases, the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Act.

To Find Out What Your Rights Are, Contact Us.

At the Day Law Group, we handle maritime injury cases. We offer FREE consultations and we have offices in Baton Rouge. We also serve Baker, Denham, Gonzales, Port Allen, Prairieville, New Orleans, and Zachary. Call (225) 465-1232 ToDay to schedule your free consultation or contact us here.


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