Maritime Law Overview
Seaman's Information Regarding Maritime Injury
While on the water, people find themselves in situations that could end in accident or injury.
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The job of a seaman is a dangerous one. Often, the work is physically demanding and performed in different types of weather and sea conditions. In order to protect the worker, a seaman's employer has a responsibility to provide the seaman with a seaworthy vessel on which to work.
In order to be considered seaworthy, a vessel must meet certain requirements. The vessel must be suitable for all aspects of its particular voyage. That includes parts of the voyage that are close to land and those that happen on the open sea. It also includes the type of sea and weather conditions that the vessel is likely to encounter. So, for example, a ship that is seaworthy off the Atlantic Coast may not be seaworthy for a departure from Alaska. Some other factors to consider when determining seaworthiness include the class of ship and nature of the cargo being transported.
In addition to being suitable for all aspects of the voyage, the ship must have appropriate equipment and safety gear. It must also have an adequately staffed and trained crew.
If a vessel does not meet the seaworthiness requirements, then it is considered unseaworthy. A ship is considered unseaworthy if at the commencement of the voyage, a defect existed that a prudent owner would repair before sending the ship to sea. If a seaman is injured as a result of that unseaworthiness then he or she may recover damages pursuant to federal maritime law. There are many factors that can make a ship unseaworthy. Some common examples include: an inadequate crew, unsafe equipment and an improperly maintained boat.
Ship safety is an entirely different concept than seaworthiness. While seaworthiness refers to the safety of the actual vessel, ship safety is more general and refers to the conditions that exist on board the ship. For example, most vessels include a galley that is responsible for preparing meals for the seamen. If that food is tainted and results in illness among the seamen then the tainted food would affect the ship safety. It would not, however, affect the seaworthiness of the vessel. Further, if an employer failed to provide enough drinking water or adequate medical supplies for the crew that would affect their safety onboard the ship but not the seaworthiness of the vessel itself.
Maritime employers have a responsibility to provide a seaworthy vessel for their seamen and also have a responsibility to keep their ships safe for the welfare of the employees.