2 Longshore Workers Killed On The US East Coast

As Australian waterside workers remember their dead one year on, two US longshore workers have been killed on the waterfront this week.

Virginian longshore worker Paula Bellamy, 38,  died after being struck by a forklift at APM terminal, Portsmouth on Monday, while in Miami, Florida a lasher was killed Wednesday evening. 

At the time of the Portsmouth job accident Paula Bellamy was working as a "slinger," or a guide to a crane operator, for a stevedoring company that provides labor for unloading cargo ships at marine terminals operated by the Virginia Port Authority, The Daily Press reports.

"In the harsh early spring weather Bellamy guided the crane by radio," NewsChannel3 reports.

Paula was directing the crane operator by radio from the wharf when a forklift driver nearby picked up steel bins and drove blind into her,  according to Portsmouth police. While NewsChannel3 reports the forkdriver was carrying containers.

The driver's vision was obstructed by the bins carried on the front of his vehicle, according to police.

As in Australia forklift drivers are supposed to travel in reverse if the load their vehicle is carrying obstructs the forward view.

 Bellamy was rushed to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital where she was pronounced dead at 8:59 a.m.

"It's tragic," said Joe Harris, a port authority spokesman. "Any time there's a loss of life at the terminals, it's a tragedy."

"Any time something like this happens, you take a look at all circumstances to see if there's a way to make things safer, or if this was an (isolated), horrible industrial accident," Harris told the Daily Press.

Wayne Cochran, president of the International Longshoremen's Association Local 970, told the Daily News he could not provide any additional details about the accident.

Bellamy is the seventh person to die in industrial accidents at the state's marine terminals since 2005, the Daily Press reports.


Meanwhile Blueoceana Company, reports the death of a second East Coast longshore worker this week, while unlashing containers.

"As I understand it from individuals at Miami port, the work being undertaken was preparatory to discharge operations aboard a combination Ro-Ro/Lo-Lo vessel," Signorino, President, Blueoceana reports.

"Specifically, he was unlashing of containers, trailers and container/chassis combinations. Shortly after releasing the last chain/binder assembly that secured a chassis mounted loaded reefer to a ramp (inclined) deck, the container/chassis shifted forward, buckled its landing gear (dropping the nose end) and slid the front support box approximately 8 feet out; away from the container's nose (front) end. The longshoreman (a member of ILA Local Union 1416), was crushed beneath the front end."

The union is awaiting further information that should better clarify the circumstances that led to this very unfortunate and regrettable accident.

Chair of the dockers section, International Transport Workers' Federation, Paddy Crumlin, said both deaths were human tragedies that should never have occured.

"Yet again a worker has gone to work and will not be returning home - a woman to her family, a man to his.  Their deaths highlight the urgent need to make the worlds' waterfront safe, here in Australia were employers are still dragging their feet on regulations, training and enforcement, in the US and elsewhere.  We will not stand by and allow these deaths to continue."

Last year three Australian waterside workers were killed on the wharves, Brisbane wharfie Brad Gray like Paula Bellamy was struck down by a forklift.

Warren Smith, MUA Assistant Secretary who represented the union in national talks with Paul Keating, relieving Sydney Branch official and Port Botany wharfie, this month said employers were still stalling on reaching a national code.

"It's okay to get up and say they want to work together with us on safety. But only stevedoring regulation that underpins a comprehensive code of practice can provide current and future generations of wharfies with the best possible hope they will return home from work each day to their families. It's absolutely imperative that a stevedoring specific regulation is put into place as soon as possible. It will save lives. Only then the lives of our fallen comrades will not be in vane. The MUA won't stop until there is a proper safety culture on the nation's wharves." 

See Memorial for Nick Fanos as union push for wharf safety continues