Who is a Jones Act Seaman?
Most crew members of vessels qualify as seamen under the Jones Act. The term ‘vessel’ applies to all manner of waterborne craft including inland water or offshore oil rigs that are not permanently attached to the seafloor such as jack up rigs, semi-submersibles, and barge rigs, barges, tug boats, crew boats, tankers, riverboats, fishing and shrimping boats, trawlers, offshore supply vessels, ferries, and all other vessels used offshore or on inland waterways.
In many cases a Jones Act seaman may be a captain, engineer, deckhand, A/B Seaman, toolpusher, driller, derrickman, crane operator, roughneck, floorhand, motorman, roustabout, rigger, galleyhand, cook, or anyone else who contributes to the mission of the vessel.
Jones Act seamen must have a substantial connection to either a particular vessel or a certain ‘fleet’ of vessels. Generally, any worker who spends more than 30 percent of their time on a vessel in navigation qualifies as a seaman under the Jones Act. This means that some maritime workers who work on a variety of vessels that are not owned by one particular company may not be Jones Act seamen. Nevertheless, these workers still have substantial rights including being able to recover from their employer under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA), and the ability to sue other at-fault parties with a suit based on general maritime law. These non-Jones-Act-seamen may include oilfield service hands, wireline hands, welders, casing hands, river pilots, mud engineers, directional drillers, stevedores, harbor workers, longshoremen, and many others. Often, employees who work on non-vessel offshore oil rigs, (permanent installations such as a platform permanently attached to the seafloor), fall into this category as well.