As a seaman in New York, you may be well familiar with what makes a vessel seaworthy. While unseaworthiness has a definite meaning that could put your life in danger out on the ocean, it is also a legal term. If you suffer an injury, the definition of this word could affect your compensation. At Tabak, Mellusi & Shisha, we often help seamen to evaluate whether unseaworthiness is a factor in their circumstances.
The U.S. Courts for the Ninth Circuit defines unseaworthiness clearly. First, the duty to ensure that the vessel is seaworthy rests only with the owner, and he or she cannot claim that this responsibility was designated to someone else. Not only must the vessel, including all its components and equipment, be adequate to fulfill the purpose it was intended for, it must also have enough crew members to complete all of the duties necessary to safely run the ship. There should also be safety equipment provided in case an accident occurs.
An accident does not necessarily indicate unseaworthiness, but if it happens because some aspect of the ship or its equipment breaks down, it might. An accident that is caused by a crew member could also be a sign that the owner is responsible if the person's action or behavior occurred because he or she is incompetent, untrained or violent.
Your work environment is critical to your safety at sea. More information about how a vessel owner's duties affect its seaworthiness and your rights as a seaman is available on our webpage.