ANCHORAGE, AK – Working in the Alaskan fishing industry – an occupation already regarded as one of the nation’s most dangerous – employees aboard the F/V Pacific Producer faced dangers purely of their employer’s making, an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Coast Guard has found.
An inspection by the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration was initially opened in July 2022 in Kodiak, Alaska, but was delayed when the F/V Pacific Producer – a 472-ton seafood processing vessel – departed the port. Through coordination with USCG’s Sector Puget Sound, a joint inspection resumed when the vessel arrived in Seattle in October.
Inspectors found murky, brown water in the ship’s drinking water system; crew members being served expired food; water used to process fish leaking into dry food storage and the galley’s dining area; and other unsanitary conditions throughout the vessel.
In addition, OSHA discovered employees exposed to dangerous electrical hazards throughout the vessel, including damaged and improperly installed electrical equipment, broken outlets and outlets near water, ungrounded extension cords and exposed wiring. Inspectors also found the vessel had no fire suppression system as required, which exposed the crew to fire hazards.
OSHA cited the ship’s operator, East West Seafoods LLC and owner Christos Tsabouris for two repeat serious, 17 serious violations, and one other than serious violation on Jan. 12, 2023. The agency proposed $208,983 in penalties.
The latest findings extend East West Seafoods’ history of unsafe operations that have exposed employees to the risk of serious harm or death. In 2012, 2014 and 2018, OSHA inspections identified similar sanitation, electrical and fire hazards, and other dangers related to a lack of lockout/tagout, machine-guarding and fall protections, and a 2018 ammonia leak.
“Alaskan fishing industry workers depend on their employers for vessels that don’t jeopardize their safety and health,” explained OSHA Acting Regional Administrator Jack A. Rector in Seattle. “For more than a decade, our inspectors have found disgusting and dangerous conditions aboard the F/V Pacific Producer, and the well-being of crews aboard the vessel are at great risk because of its owner’s failures.”
“This employer’s blatant and continued disregard for crews aboard the F/V Pacific Producer must end before tragedy strikes,” Rector added. “The U.S. Department of Labor and its federal partners will use their full enforcement powers to hold East West Seafoods and Christos Tsabouris accountable for their callous neglect and contempt for federal workplace safety standards.”
In addition to OSHA’s actions, the USCG invalidated the F/V Pacific Producer’s certificate of compliance, halting the employer’s continued operations until repairs are made. In 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice found East West Seafoods intentionally discharged oily bilge water and 1,000 gallons of raw sewage into the ocean within three miles of the Alaskan coast in 2013, and later presented false records to the USCG. A federal court in Alaska sentenced the company and its owner to five years of probation and $50,000 in fines.
East West Seafoods LLC is the owner of the F/V Pacific Producer, a 169-foot long seafood processing vessel built in 1946 and registered in the U.S. Christos Tsabouris has had charge of the F/V Pacific Producer since at least November 2012.
The company has contested the citations and penalties to the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
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