What Vessels Are Covered by the Jones Act?
The Jones Act applies to almost all vessels in navigation or capable of navigation. The Supreme Court of the United States has issued an opinion defining vessels. In Stewart v. Dutra the Supreme Court stated a vessel is any watercraft practically capable of maritime transportation, regardless of its primary purpose or state of transit at a particular moment. A vessel includes every description of watercraft or other artificial contrivance used, or capable of being used, as a means of transportation upon water. To be eligible for Jones Act seaman benefits you must be a master, or member of the vessel's crew.
A vessel need only be used, or capable of being used, for maritime transportation. Dredges, scows, and barges are vessels for purposes of the Jones Act. A vessel need not have its own means of propulsion. A fish processing vessel towed from location to location would qualify as a vessel. Similarly, a dredge moved from job to job and anchored may be a vessel for purposes of the Jones Act. Vessels temporarily moored also qualify as vessels under the Jones Act. Vessels which are out of the water, or no longer capable of navigation, do not qualify as vessels under the Jones Act. A vessel that is permanently affixed to shore is no longer in navigation, and therefore not a vessel under the Jones Act.
In most cases it is clear what is and is not a vessel. However, in cases involving floating platforms, dredges, and pile drivers, careful consideration must be given to whether they will be defined as vessel. If there is any question about whether or not your work injury involves a vessel covered under the Jones Act, you should contact an experienced maritime lawyer for advice.
If you have been injured at sea, please contact an experienced maritime law attorney at Beard Stacey & Jacobsen today for a free initial consultation and case evaluation.