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Working Under a Foreign Flagged Vessel


It can be very tempting to take a position working on a foreign flagged vessel. Whether it’s the excitement of foreign travel, high pay, or the ability to mingle and make friends with people from other cultures, there are plenty of reasons why taking such a job could be the opportunity of a lifetime. However, one unfortunate reality is foreign vessels may not always be governed by the same laws and protections as U.S. flagged vessels. When you suffer a work injury aboard a ship, your rights may not be the same.

Safety Requirements May Vary 

The U.S. has multiple federal agencies that control the safety and regulation of commercial ships, as well as leisure vessels like yachts. For instance, the Department of Transportation has a division known as “MARAD” or Maritime Administration. This federal agency is responsible for promulgating regulations concerning proper ship engineering, design, and safety. Foreign flagged vessels may or may not be held to the same stringent safety standards, leading to higher likelihoods of death or injury for crew members.

Jones Act May Not Always Apply 

The Merchant Marine Act of 1920 (known as the “Jones Act”) is an important piece of legislation that controls a wide range of seafaring activities in industry. Among the provisions it contains are provisions allowing very generous protections for seamen and crew members who are injured while working aboard ships covered by the Act.   If you are working for an employer based in the United States, you may be entitled to the protection of the Jones Act.  Only an experienced maritime attorney will know what to look for in determining if you are entitled to the protections provided by the Jones Act. 

U.S. Yacht Owners Must Be Careful Not to Violate Laws 

An interesting situation comes up when a U.S. citizen owns a pleasure boat, such as a yacht, and chooses to flag it under a foreign flag for tax or other purposes. It is generally legal for an American to own a pleasure boat for personal leisure purposes only and maintain a foreign flag. While there are numerous reasons why a person may wish to do this, it is usually for tax purposes. So long as it is strictly for personal pleasure and non-commercial uses, then there are no problems.

However, if the vessel is being used for profit (even entertaining business associates), the owner can run afoul of the Passenger Vessel Services Act. This is something to be aware of if you are hired to be on the crew of a U.S. based yacht that was either built abroad or flies a foreign flag.

Hiring the Right Lawyer For Your Maritime Injuries 

Each case is unique, but maritime and admiralty laws are ever-changing and complex. Often there are conflicts between state and federal regulations, and there may even be international treaties that apply to a specific injury. If you or a loved one have been injured on a vessel, whether as a passenger or crew member, call Michael F. Guilford, P.A. in Florida today to schedule a private free consultation. Let us help you make sense of your injuries and preserve your right to compensation right away.




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  • American Association for Justice

It's Your Time To Win

Contact the Law Offices of Michael F. Guilford, P.A. for a free initial consultation with Michael Guilford. Flexible appointment times are available. If you can't come to us, we will come to you. Call toll free 866-473-2636 or describe your injuries in an email.

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Michael F. Guilford, P.A.

Courthouse Tower, Suite 750
44 West Flagler St.
Miami, FL 33130

Toll Free: 866-473-2636
Phone: 305-539-1999
Fax: 305-539-1998