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What is a vessel for maritime law purposes?

This Orleans Parish law blog has discussed admiralty law, how it is the area of law that relates to injured seamen and how they can seek compensation for their damages. The doctrine of maintenance and cure applies to persons that the law determines are seamen. One of the requirements for a person to be a seaman in the eyes of the law is that the person must be working in the service of a vessel in navigation and on navigable waters. This blog post will give a summary of how the law determines whether this requirement is fulfilled.

When determining whether a structure is a "vessel" in the eyes of admiralty law, courts look to the purpose for which the structure was constructed and the business in which it is engaged. If a structure has the primary purpose of transporting cargo, passengers or equipment over navigable waters, it will likely be considered a vessel for purposes of determining whether the doctrine of maintenance and cure applies.

In close cases, courts may consider some factors in determining whether a structure is a vessel. One factor is whether the structure has navigational aids. Another factor is whether the structure has lifeboats and other emergency equipment. In addition, the court may consider is whether the structure has a raked bow, bilge pumps or crew quarters. Finally, the court may consider is whether the structure is registered with the U.S. Coast Guard as a vessel.

This is just a summary of the factors that may be taken into account for determining whether a structure is a vessel for purposes of maritime law. Injured offshore workers and those injured on a seagoing vessel are encouraged to seek answers to any questions they may have regarding their rights and responsibilities.

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