The engine room aboard the ALASKA JURIS reportedly began to flood around mid-day on Tuesday, forcing 46 crewmen to abandon ship into the Bering Sea. The crew donned cold water survival suits and were able to make it off of the ship to the Alaska Juris’ life rafts. The Alaska Juris is a 220 foot Alaska Factory trawler owned by the Seattle based Fishing Company of Alaska (FCA). Two good Samaritan vessels in the area rescued the crewmen from life rafts. No injuries have been reported at this point and the crew is all believed to be safe.
The near tragedy occurred approximately 700 miles west of Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Fortunately, sea and weather conditions were mild at the time of the emergency. The crew has now been transported to Anchorage. Whether or not the Alaska Juris has sunk is currently unknown. Last reports on Wednesday had the vessel listing to the port and down in the bow. A salvage vessel, the Resolve Pioneer, is underway to conduct a search for the vessel.
Built in 1975 the Alaska Juris is an aging Alaska Fishing vessel. Few specific safety regulations apply to Alaska fishing vessels such as the Alaska Juris. The Fishing Company of Alaska has a troubled safety record which includes the sinking in 2008 of another vessel owned by FCA, the Alaska Ranger. Crewman injured while working aboard Alaska fishing vessels are protected by Federal maritime laws. Multiple serious injury and wrongful death claims have been previously filed against FCA. A miraculous rescue of the crew of the Alaska Ranger, many of who barely survived floating for hours in survival suits in the frigid Bearing Sea waters, avoided what could have been an even greater tragedy. Four crewmen perished in the Alaska Ranger sinking and there were 42 survivors. The Alaska Ranger triggered a Coast Guard inquiry and investigation into the Fishing Company of Alaska.
Despite increased emphasis on fishing vessel safety near sinkings such as this one involving the Alaska Juris occur with Alarming frequency. It appears in this case that loss of many lives may have been avoided by the mild weather and sea conditions. The United States Coast Guard is investigating the incident.
James Beard is a maritime lawyer located in Seattle, Washington. Beard was one of the lead lawyers in the wrongful death claims arising out of the sinking of the Alaska Ranger in 2008. His firm also represented surviving crewmen from the Alaska Ranger sinking. Beard can be reached at 1-800-621-1091 to discuss Jones Act maritime injury claims for injured Alaska fish processors and commercial fishermen. Beard has recovered millions of dollars in compensation for crewmen who have suffered psychological injuries as result of injuries while working aboard commercial fishing vessels.