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The Longshore Act and vessels: important distinctions

A person who sustains an injury in the maritime industry in New York may not be eligible for traditional workers’ compensation benefits. However, the U.S. Department of Labor explains that the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act was designed to ensure that these employees who work on boats and other vessels still receive compensation to help cover the costs associated with an injury on the job. This legislation’s language has led to some confusion over the years, though, particularly in regards to the word “vessel.”

The National Law Review notes that there have been a number of court cases that have attempted to define what a vessel is. Typically, it refers to a boat of some kind. According to court rulings, some things floating on the water may not be considered boats, even if, as in the case of a houseboat, the word boat is actually part of the name. The U.S. Supreme Court has determined that it is not a vessel because it is not intended for transportation, and that factor is one of the key identifiers.

Even a structure that is used to transport people and goods from one location to another across the water may not be a vessel, though. In another case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an offshore platform did not qualify because it lacked certain features, such as a rake bow, a rudder and a means of steering. The platform was also unable to move without an outside force, such as a tug, providing the driving mobility, and its purpose was not fulfilled until it was positioned and anchored into a set location.

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