Jones Act

Updated: 09 June 2023

What Does Jones Act Mean?

The Jones Act or The Merchant Marine Act of 1920 is a law pertaining to maritime commerce or trade done by the shipping industry. It mandates that ships carrying products and passengers within the U.S. should be made in the U.S. and owned by U.S. citizens. It also requires that staff and crew should be U.S. citizens as well. This law is also about protection for ship workers who get injured while at work at sea.

Insuranceopedia Explains Jones Act

This law has two major concerns: cabotage regulations and seamen's rights.

The legal requirements of cabotage (products and services done by shipping) which ensure that ships be owned by Americans and made in the U.S. are meant to protect the country's shipping industry. Critics point out that such a law ultimately harms the industry since it is unable to compete internationally when there are ships made by other countries that are less expensive and technologically more advanced.

In case of a national emergency, such as a strong hurricane affecting a part of the country, this law can be temporarily waived.

The term seaman refers to a person who works at sea most of the time (and by law, at least 30% of his time to qualify for claims). If he or she is injured and the cause of injury is an act done by his or her superiors and colleagues, he or she has the right to sue the employer for compensation. A Jones Act lawyer, and not just any maritime law attorney, is usually contacted to handle seamen's rights cases.

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