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What is a seaworthy vessel under the Jones Act?

Maritime employers and vessel owners have an obligation to maritime workers to provide them with a seaworthy vessel or rig on which to work. However, seaworthy does not simply mean that the vessel is able to stay afloat in water. Under the Jones Act, seaworthy vessel must be in good condition, allowing seamen covered by the Jones Act to perform their jobs safely.

What makes a vessel unseaworthy?

A vessel may be classified as unseaworthy for many reasons relating to the unsafe nature of the vessel. The existence of one or more of the following conditions on a vessel may constitute ‘unseaworthiness’, even if that condition is only temporary:

  • Insufficient crew due to understaffing or lack of training
  • Unsafe vessel conditions caused by crew member negligence (e.g. slippery ship deck)
  • Improper operation of the vessel
  • Defective machinery, appliances, or equipment, sometimes due to poor maintenance
  • Presence of dangerous chemicals or flammable substances
  • Insufficient supplies or equipment on board the vessel

Employers may be strictly liable for unseaworthy vessels

Maritime workers may recover damages from a maritime employer that fails to provide a seaworthy vessel for them to work on. Even if the vessel owner or employer was not negligent in any way, they may be strictly liable for a worker’s physical, emotional, and financial injuries caused by the unseaworthiness of the vessel. To recover damages, a worker must show that a hazardous condition existed on the vessel while they were on-the-job.

Under the Jones Act, eligible injured workers can recover damages for their medical expenses, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, pain and suffering, and disability. New York maritime law attorneys are available to help injured maritime workers recover damages under the Jones Act.