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The Jones Act Under Scrutiny

Posted on March 16, 2017

For many years now, lawmakers have been proposing changes to the Jones Act – some controversial, some calling for complete repeal. Now the act is under fire again. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection has recently made a move to revise or reverse more than 30 interpretive rulings of the law that date back to 1976. The people who are most affected by these changes are seafarers.

Proposed Changes To The Jones Act

photo by ThreeShots

The majority of the proposed changes relate to offshore operations through the extension of the Jones Act called the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. The changes could have a major impact, including the possibility that they will limit offshore growth.

Who Would These Changes Affect?

The Jones Act was passed to protect maritime workers and to maintain a safe and efficient maritime industry. Making changes to it and repealing pieces of it will directly affect seafarers and their ability to hold employers accountable for any of their work injuries.

To qualify as a seafarer under the act, a person must spend a significant amount of time on a vessel in navigation, contributing to the work on the vessel. By definition, the seafarer must spend 30 percent of working hours on the vessel. The vessel the person is working on must also be afloat, in operation and capable of moving in navigatable waters.

Compensation Rights

The Jones Act gives seafarers the legal right to seek compensation for an injury or illness from an employer that has been negligent. The employer can be found negligent for a number of reasons, including:

  •  Not providing workers with adequate training to do their jobs safely
  •  Allowing the maintenance of a ship or equipment to deteriorate
  •  Failing to provide enough safety equipment for all workers
  • Failing to maintain a safe deck, free of debris or slick spot
  • Allowing a vessel to go out in waters or weather in spite of signs that it will be too dangerous