Louisiana residents who work in the shipping industry on the country’s navigable waters are more than likely familiar with “bunker” fuel. Many freighters use this heavy fuel oil to power the engines. Unfortunately, this fuel can cause work-related illnesses such as asthma and other respiratory ailments that could cut a career short.
Bunker fuel consists of the dregs left over from the oil refining process. It is thick and loaded with sulphur, which produces fine particles and noxious gases when burned. It is not hard to imagine that it could cause problems with those working and living on the freighters that use this fuel knowing that the fumes can travel several miles and still affect the surrounding communities.
Spending any significant time around this type of air pollution would undoubtedly have an effect on those vulnerable to respiratory issues. It is possible that the effects bunker fuel has on the communities along the country’s waterways could mean the end of bunker fuel. The International Maritime Organization has said that beginning Jan. 1, 2020, the Sulphur emissions from ships must be no more than 0.5%, which is well under current standards.
It remains to be seen whether eliminating the use of bunker fuel will reduce the number of work-related illnesses in connection with its use. For the time being, Louisiana residents who work in the shipping industry and suffer respiratory ailments linked to sulphur emissions could pursue benefits under the Jones Act or the Longshore Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. Any benefits received could help with medical costs, lost income and more depending on the circumstances.