April 18, 2024

A U.S. Army Corp of Engineers boat works at the scene after the cargo ship Dali collided with the Francis Scott Key Bridge causing it to collapse yesterday, on March 27, 2024 in Baltimore, Maryland.

Subsidiary of company involved in bridge collapse fired whistleblower

(Editor’s note: A previous version of this article referred to “Maersk” as the company sanctioned by the Department of Labor in 2023, when it was in fact a subsidiary, Maersk Lines, Limited, that was sanctioned. This article has been updated to clarify that A.P. Moller Maersk – the parent company — chartered the ship involved in the bridge collapse, which is a separate entity from its subsidiary. This article has also been amended to include a statement from the subsidiary that it is appealing the sanctions, and the headline has been updated to clarify the distinction between the two entities.)

A subsidiary of shipping company A.P. Moller Maersk (APMM) — which chartered the cargo ship involved in the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore that killed six people and injured several others — was sanctioned by the Department of Labor last year, according to a new report.

Lever News reported this week that the cargo giant’s subsidiary — Maersk Lines, Limited (MLL) — was hit with a violation in July of 2023, when it illegally fired a worker who reported safety concerns to the US Coast Guard. The employee reported numerous safety concerns aboard an MLL vessel that included leaks in a starboard-side tunnel, alcohol use by crew members and leaving a trainee unsupervised aboard the ship Safmarine Mafadi.

The worker also blew the whistle about inoperable lifeboats on board the ship and faulty emergency fire suppression equipment. The employee — who was a chief mate on the ship and occasionally served as a relief captain — told federal officials that they believed their firing was “retaliation for reporting alcohol consumption on board the vessel.” MLL was ordered to reinstate the worker and pay $700,000 in back wages and damages.

The worker was fired for violating an internal MLL policy that required employees “to first report their concerns to [MLL] … prior to reporting it to the [Coast Guard] or other authorities.” The Occupational Safety and Heath Administration (OSHA) slammed MLL over the policy, describing it as “repugnant,” “reprehensible” and “an egregious violation of the rights of employees.” OSHA added that the policy “chills [employees] from contacting the [Coast Guard] or other authorities without contacting the company first.”

Lever reported that during the OSHA investigation, the Department of Labor accused the subsidiary of violating the Seaman’s Protection Act. That legislation allows for workers in the maritime industry to blow the whistle on safety violations while protecting them from retaliatory actions by their employers. The Department of Labor ordered MLL to revise its internal policy to allow workers to contact the US Coast Guard directly about any safety concerns.

MLL is appealing that decision, with the company stating that it was “proud of its safety culture and its highest priority remains the safety and security of our mariners and shoreside colleagues.” The company added that it “cooperated fully with the US Coast Guard in its investigation of these same events and the US Coast Guard’s official report ‘[i]dentified no evidence that the vessel/crew was not taking appropriate actions to address any safety or equipment concerns.’”

Interesting Read…


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