What Constitutes a ‘Vessel’ for Seaman Status Purposes?
Seamen status disputes often arise in personal injury cases and whether one’s job is related to a vessel is crucial. You must have an employment connection to a vessel to qualify as a seaman and take advantage of the unique protection available for such maritime workers.
What Is a Vessel?
While the answer to the question of what constitutes a vessel seems to be common sense, it can be complicated under certain circumstances.
The law defines a vessel as a:
“Structure designed or used in navigation for the transportation of passengers, cargo, or equipment across navigable waters.”
Courts will consider these factors in making a conclusion:
- the structure’s ability to float;
- the permanence of the structure’s attachment to the shore or the water bottom;
- if the structure is capable of self-propulsion; and
- if the structure actually sails.
Vessels in Seamen Status Disputes
Vessel status questions typically arise in the context of offshore oil production activities aboard drill rigs, semi-submersible rigs, and structures like SPARS. Do you work aboard these types of structures?
It is important to be aware that your rights and remedies as a seaman depend on whether your structure qualifies as a vessel under the law. Learn more about the different types of vessels.