What kinds of special hazards do seamen face on bulk cargo ships?

On Behalf of | Nov 17, 2022 | Maritime Law

One of the best ways that you can prevent workplace injuries is to understand more about the particular hazards that you face in your industry. That’s especially true for maritime workers of any kind.

While the movement of bulk cargo, like coal, grain, sugar, iron ore and other dry materials, is essential to our nation’s economy and needs, they also present unique dangers during transport. Here are some of the top concerns you may face:


It almost doesn’t seem possible, but a dry, solid cargo can become almost fluid due to a combination of the moisture content in the goods, the vibration of the ship’s engine and the motion of the vessel on the sea. This is common with minerals like iron and nickel ore. Shipper declarations should correctly state the liquid content of the cargo. However, that doesn’t always happen. Crew members can be unprepared for a destabilized load that causes cargo to slide around or shift.

Excessive dust and toxic fumes

Anybody working on a cargo ship runs the risk of inhaling a lot of cargo dust or even toxic fumes. Cargo holds can be filled with substances like coal and fertilizers that produce both dust and toxic fumes, like hydrogen sulfide and carbon monoxide. Seamen constantly have to be cautious about wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) that protects their lungs and lives.

Shifts and falls

This may be the most obvious concern for many cargo ships, but it’s certainly not the least. Grain held in a cargo hold can shift and bury a seaman almost instantly. Other cargo materials can end up falling as it is moved or simply because it wasn’t loaded properly, leading to significant injuries or fatalities.

If you’re a commercial seaman that was injured on a cargo ship, find out more about your rights to compensation for your losses under maritime law.