The increasing development of international maritime trade, combined with a steady growth in tourism are driving an increased demand for maritime workers to staff both merchant ships and cruise vessels.
More than three-quarters of freight shipped worldwide is said to travel by sea. The global merchant fleet includes some 80,000 vessels of at least 100 gross tons. More than 1.2 million seafarers are currently manning these vessels worldwide.
It is common to hire mariners from different countries. Many seafarers work in ships not registered in their country of origin. Such mixed crews often do not speak the same languages.
Both on land and at sea problems often arise from work and life on these ships. Legal disputes that originate on board have unique characteristics that can differ significantly from problems that originate on land. Things get even more difficult when trying to find what specific maritime laws will protect workers or passengers in each situation.
Why is it so difficult to know which Maritime Law applies?
Many factors come into place when deciding what maritime laws are appropriate in each case. Among other things, one factor to consider is the location where an incident happened. Did it occur in territorial waters or the high seas? The flag of the vessel in which the incident happened is also important. Even the location on board the ship is often established within given applicable contracts, and whether an incident occurred in a public passageway or in areas given over for the operation of the ship can be relevant. Further complications arise from the fact that passengers and crew are often from different countries, with differing languages, cultures and laws.
These difficulties are often used against passengers and crew who feel as though their rights are quickly disappearing. Although workers and passengers may feel helpless, it’s important that they understand that their rights can be asserted.
Let’s take a look at Maritime Law and the Jones Act.
After exposing some of the problems of maritime law, it is important to be aware that it is possible to claim compensation for damages.
To cite one example, the Merchant Marine Act, known as the Jones Act was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1920 and protects both U.S. and foreign born sailors. Mariners can claim injury compensation provided that their employer has not provided a safe workplace. An accident claim may have not even originated on the boat. The Jones Act protects employees from marine employer negligence, however minimal.
Not only sailors are protected by Maritime Law. Disputes arising out of the business relationship between passengers and cruise companies can also be argued within the framework of maritime laws. Several reports of sexual abuse on cruise ships and disappearance cases involving persons at sea have been covered, where often people were not aware of the existing Maritime Laws created to protect victims of just such cases.
In every case, it’s important to know that the unique characteristics of maritime law can be complex. The assistance of an experienced maritime lawyer cannot be over-emphasized. Only those receiving true professional and learned counsel are likely to successfully see their rights asserted and just compensation served.