Legally, ferry boat employees are generally different from
shoreside employees. That’s because under the law, a person
who works on a ferry can considered a seaman. Later, we’ll cover
the elements of a test that determines if a maritime employee is a
seaman. Being a seaman means being entitled to rights under
the Jones Act, a U.S. maritime law that governs the rights of
maritime employees injured in the course of their jobs. The term
“seaman” includes women and men alike…it has no gender

The Jones Act is not the only maritime law governing the legal
rights of commercial seamen. Depending on their job
description, some ferry boat crews may need to be familiar with
regulations under the U.S. Coast Guard for reporting marine
incidents, oil spill response, alcohol testing and other
emergencies. They may also need to be aware of environmental
regulations, although these may be addressed in a ferry company’
s standard operating procedures for personnel.

In 1920, Congress wanted to protect American maritime workers
with the Jones Act. Such protection was already enjoyed by
railroad workers. Congress felt that the hazards of maritime work
required protection under admiralty and maritime law. They felt
that the seaman was more helpless than a person who worked
on shore because a seaman often livws aboard a ship that was
owned and operated by someone else, all in a setting that was
dangerous. A commercial mariner faces traditional perils of the
sea in terms of storms, waves, ice in addition to the hazards of
the vessel. These included injury from high pressure steam,
slipping and falling, being struck by unsecured objects, and
falling overboard.

In addition, a commercial seaman was far from home and family.
Although work on a ferry boat does not generally involve long
overnight stints, working as a ferry crew can introduce hazards
that are unique to shipboard work. By the way, some ferry jobs
can involve overnight journeys…look at some of the ferries that
operate in Europe in places like the Baltic Sea. What they
describe as a ferry looks more like a medium sized ocean going
vessel. Ferry usually brings to mind an image of something
relatively small, shallow drafted and not generally intended for
operation in heavy seas offshore.

So even though ferry workers may work in protected sounds and
lakes, they face ordinary maritime hazards of falling overboard,
injury in securing vessel to dolphins and piers, high-temperature
engine rooms, odd hours and seagoing watch standing protocol.
Ferry jobs are hard work. Ferries work year-round in some
waters. Maritime workers aboard these ferries face extremes of
temperature in summer and winter months. The Jones Act
recognizes the unique physical hazards of maritime employment.

The Jones Act also covers toxic hazards that can arise aboard
older vessels. These can include hazards from toxic substances
such as asbestos, silica compounds, hazardous solvents used
for engine cleaning duties. Some solvents can present health
hazards if used in confined spaces without ventilation. Asbestos
exposure should not be an issue in new vessels built from the
keel up with non-asbestos pipe insulation and packing materials.
Although U.S. shipyards use substitute materials, there are older
vessels out there that could possibly contain asbestos. If an older
vessels contain asbestos components installed before the
discontinuation of asbestos products, workers need to be aware
of the prevention of respiratory damage and disease. When it
comes to asbestos hazards (such as asbestosis, mesothelioma,
lung cancer or other respiratory disease from asbestos
exposure), there are certain procedures that need to be followed
in removing it. Although an injured seaman’s legal rights might
be thought of in terms of slipping on a greasy ladder in the engine
room, seamen exposed to asbestos, benzene, silica, xylene,
beryllium or other substances are covered under the Jones Act.

Under the Jones Act, commercial mariners, including crews
aboard containerships, tugboats, commercial fishing vessels are
entitled to certain legal rights that arise because of an employer’s
negligence. Commercial seamen are also entitled to rights
stemming from a vessel being unseaworthy. Unseaworthiness
means the vessel was not reasonably fit for its intended use.
Covered injuries include physical injuries from falls, being struck
by objects, or being exposed to hazardous substances or

If they are covered under the Jones Act, a seaman is entitled to
lost wages, medical expenses, pain, suffering and mental
anguish. Maritime law uses the words maintenance and cure for
reimbursement of living expenses and medical expenses. This
includes hospital expenses, doctors, nurses and other medical

Copyright 2006 -
Copyright Warning
Rights reserved  - U.S. Copyright Law Carries Criminal & Civil
Penalties for Infringement  - 17 U.S.C. § 506 and 18 U.S.C. § 2319
U.S. Department of Labor - These are contact
numbers for Dept of Labor Offices that maintain
regional employment, unemployment, wage
information (cont'd)

MONTANA - Helena, MT - (406) 444-2430
NEBRASKA - Lincoln, NE - (402) 471-9964
NEVADA - Carson City, NV - (775) 684-0387
NEW HAMPSHIRE - Concord, NH - (603) 228-4123
NEW JERSEY - Trenton, NJ 08625 - (609) 292-0099
NEW MEXICO - Albuquerque, NM - (505) 222-4683
NEW YORK - Albany, NY - (518) 457-6369
NORTH CAROLINA - Raleigh, NC - (919) 733-2936
NORTH DAKOTA - Bismarck, ND - (701) 328-2868
OHIO - Columbus, OH - (614) 752-9494
OKLAHOMA - Oklahoma City, OK - (405) 557-7265
OREGON - Salem, OR - (503) 947-1212
PENNSYLVANIA - Harrisburg, PA - (717) 787-3266
PUERTO RICO Hato Rey, PR - (787) 754-5340
RHODE ISLAND - Cranston, RI - (401) 462-8767
SOUTH CAROLINA - Columbia, SC - (803) 737-2660
SOUTH DAKOTA - Aberdeen, SD - (605) 626-2314
TENNESSEE - Nashville, TN - (615) 741-2284
TEXAS - Austin, TX - (512) 491-4802
UTAH - Salt Lake City, UT - (801) 526-9401
VERMONT - Montpelier, VT - (802) 828-4153
VIRGIN ISLANDS, Charlotte Amalie, VI 340 776-3700
VIRGINIA - Richmond, VA - (804) 786-7496
WASHINGTON - Lacey, WA - (360) 438-4804
WEST VIRGINIA - Charleston, WV - (304) 558-2660
WISCONSIN - Madison, WI - (608) 267-2393
WYOMING - Casper, WY - (307) 473-3807
U.S. Department of Labor - These are contact
numbers for Dept of Labor Offices that maintain
regional employment, unemployment, wage

ALABAMA - Montgomery, AL - (334) 242-8859
ALASKA - Juneau, AK - (907) 465-4518
ARIZONA - Phoenix, AZ - (602) 542-3871
ARKANSAS - Little Rock, AR - (501) 682-4500
CALIFORNIA - Sacramento, CA - (916) 262-2160
COLORADO - Denver, CO - (303) 318-8898
CONNECTICUT, Wethersfield,CT, (860) 263-6255
DELAWARE - Wilmington, DE - (302) 761-8052
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA - (202) 671-1633
FLORIDA - Tallahassee, FL - (850) 488-1048
GEORGIA - Atlanta, GA - (404) 232-3875
GUAM - Tamuning, GU - (671) 475-7062
HAWAII - Honolulu, HI - (808) 586-8842
IDAHO - Boise, ID - (800) 772-2553
ILLINOIS - Chicago, IL - (312) 793-2316
INDIANA - Indianapolis, IN - (317) 232-7460
IOWA - Des Moines, IA - (515) 281-0255
KANSAS - Topeka, KS - (785) 296-5058
LOUISIANA - Baton Rouge, LA - (225) 342-3141
MAINE - Augusta, ME - (207) 287-2271
MARYLAND - Baltimore, MD - (410) 767-2250
MASSACHUSETTS - Boston, MA - (617) 626-6556
MICHIGAN - Detroit, MI - (313) 456-3090
MINNESOTA - St. Paul, MN - (651) 282-2714
MISSISSIPPI - Jackson, MS - (601) 321-6261
MISSOURI - Jefferson City, MO - (573) 751-3609
legal rights of ferry workers
Legal rights of maritime workers - Jones Act - Injured Mariner - Legal Test for Seamen Status - When is an employee a
seaman and when are they not a seaman - Jones Act for ferry workers - Exposure to Toxic and Hazardous Substances
When you visit ferry operator
sites, the typical job
postings may include:

Captain or "Master”, under
these US Coast Guard license
▪ 100 Ton Master
▪ 200 Ton Master  
▪ 500 Ton Master  
▪ 1600 Ton Master  
sometimes seeking
endorsements and STCW 95.

Mate , under this United
States Coast Guard license:
▪ 100 Ton Mate
▪ 200 Ton Mate  
▪ 500 Ton Mate  
▪ 1600 Ton Mate
sometimes seeking
endorsements and STCW 95.

Able Bodied Seaman, or Able
or AB

May require STCW

Chief Engineer , need to hold
this Coast Guard license:
▪ Chief Engineer Limited
▪ Chief Engineer Unlimited

Designated Duty Engineer  
under USCG license:
▪ Designated Duty Engineer
Some companies call their
Marine Engineer

Utility Worker
Marine Mechanic
Green Trainee
or Trainee

Ferry Operators also seek

Ticket Reservationists, a/k/a
Reservation Agents
Customer Service
Traffic Operations Personnel
Parking Lot Personnel
Security Personnel

Companies may require
STCW, MMD (merchant
marine document, or Z Card)
Where a larger ferry company
operates its own shipyard or
maintenance facility, they may
seek the following:

Marine Electrician
Pipe Fitter
Electronics Technician
In today's legal system, the commercial mariner needs to be
aware of so much. There is so much to keep up with in the
areas of seamanship, navigation, engineering practices,
Coast Guard regs, environmental compliance and more.
There is also a great deal to be accountable for as well. What
happens when a ferry sets sail in adverse weather conditions.
If something happens, will there be liability for the decision to
cast off. Read a court decision dealing with such a scenario,
passenger vessel encounters rough seas.