Working professionals in any industry take comfort in the knowledge that workers’ compensation laws are in place to provide for them when they are injured at work, and you as a maritime worker are no exception. The protections afforded to you and your co-workers through the Jones Act may be well-known; what you may not know is that ships can actually request that the Jones Act be waived in their regard. A common question we field here at Russell Mirkovich & Morrow is whether or not the employee protections afforded by the Jones Act are also suspended when a vessel is granted a waiver.
It is important to remember that the Jones Act is actually part of a larger piece of federal legislation known as the Merchant Marine Act. This Act was passed in 1920 with the purpose of forming a strong merchant fleet in order to support the country’s national security. A major element of this Act was the requirement that ships that make berth in domestic ports be constructed by American manufacturers (using local materials) and operated by American crews.
However, today the U.S. no longer has the largest merchant fleet in the world. Because of this, foreign-made and -operated ships have needed to dock in U.S. ports, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection have been asked more and more to grant Jones Act waivers (even locally made vessels built using foreign materials may also need a waiver). The impact that a waiver has on onboard operations (including crewmen protections) is not well-known. Thus, if you man a vessel granted a Jones Act waiver, you will want to research if that leaves you unprotected in the event of a workplace injury.
You can learn more about the extent (and limitations) of the Jones Act by continuing to explore our site.