What is a vessel in navigation?

Before injured workers can be covered under the Jones Act, they must first qualify as seamen. To qualify as a seaman, an employee must be assigned to a vessel in navigation, a term which is confusing to many people.

The Jones Act

The Jones Act is federal legislation intended to protect American workers who are injured at sea. Under this law, qualifying sailors faced with illness or injuries as a result of their work are permitted to receive compensation.

Vessel in Navigation

To explain the term vessel in navigation, we must first define what the Jones Act means by the words vessel and navigation:


A maritime worker must be injured while working on a vessel in order to qualify as a seaman under the Jones Act. Vessels are generally defined as floating structures that are used for commerce or to transport passengers, cargo, or equipment on navigable waters. Common examples of vessels include barges, tugboats, fishing boats, cargo ships, and cruise ships. Vessels typically maintain or possess:

  • A raked bow.
  • Crew quarters.
  • Bilge pumps.
  • Navigational aids.
  • Lifeboats.
  • Coast Guard registration.


A vessel is considered to be in navigation when it is engaged in transportation and commerce on navigable waters. The ship doesn’t actually have to be moving when workers are injured, however. Vessels that are in dry docks due to routine or minor repairs are still considered to be in navigation. On the other hand, a ship that is undergoing major renovations that render it unusable at the time of the accident does not qualify as a navigable vessel.

You Need an Attorney

Due to the complexity of the laws governing Jones Act claims, these cases require the expertise of an experienced maritime injury attorney. If you’ve been injured while working on a vessel, you need professional representation to help you receive the compensation you deserve. To learn more, contact the law offices of Steve M. Lee, P.C., by clicking the Live Chat button on this page.

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