When is a vessel “in navigation,” and why does it matter?

On Behalf of | Jul 28, 2023 | Commercial Seamen |

If you’ve been researching your rights to compensation for a work-related injury or illness under the Jones Act, you’ve likely come across the term “vessel in navigation.” It’s important to understand how this term is defined. To be considered a “seaman” under this law and therefore eligible for compensation, a person must spend a minimum of 30% of their working hours on a vessel in navigation.

Determining whether a worker qualifies for compensation under the Jones Act as opposed to the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) or other maritime law or whether they need to seek compensation via a personal injury suit isn’t always a clear-cut matter. Some cases have made it up to the state supreme court level to be decided. 

What factors are considered?

Questions often arise about a vessel’s “in navigation” status when injuries are suffered while it’s being built, repaired or overhauled. Generally, it’s a matter of whether the vessel was fit to operate at the time of the injury. 

A vessel undergoing minor repairs would likely be considered more capable of operating (even though it wasn’t) than one still in the process of being built or undergoing a massive overhaul. However, even a vessel that was taken to a shipyard or dry dock for repair could be considered “in navigation” if was still fit to sail. Courts asked to consider the question look at things like the cost, duration and type of work being done, whether or not the vessel was placed out of service and who was in charge of it at the time.

Often, those who are doing repairs or other work on a ship that is not considered “in navigation” under the law are eligible for compensation for injuries or illness under the LHWCA. If you or a loved one has suffered injuries or illness while working on a vessel, having experienced legal guidance can help you navigate these often-confusing waters to get the compensation to which you’re entitled.