Protecting The Legal Rights of Seafarers and Offshore Workers

A new declaration on human rights at sea has recently been drawn up to clearly define the range of human and legal rights applicable to all seafarers, including workers in the fishing and offshore energy industries. For maritime workers, two of the most pertinent rights are legal representation if they are affected by criminal activity, and protection from any violation of maritime labor rights. While no new recommendations are made in the declaration, states are given advice on how to ensure compliance with national and international laws. In the US, this means supporting crew members to take action against their employers if they are injured in a common but preventable incident such as a slip and fall accident on deck. In addition, seafarers should always be made aware of their legal rights if they find themselves facing criminal charges at sea.


Support for Marine Workers Injured on the Job

Some of the primary issues covered by maritime law are the rights of seafarers and longshore workers.  Working at sea can be extremely hazardous but workers are not covered by conventional compensation laws if they are injured at work. Instead the Federal Employer’s Liability Act is extended to seamen via a statute known as the Jones Act, a section of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. A specialist Jones Act lawyer notes that, while working offshore can present unique legal challenges, the act gives seafarers the right to make a claim against their employer if they are injured due to negligence.


Protection for Workers on OffShore Wind Farms

As a result of modifications to the Jones Act last year, the rights of workers on wind farms will also be protected in the event of an accident or injury at work.  Offshore oil and gas platforms were already covered by the Act and now wind farms will also officially be classified and treated as a US port. Installing, repairing and maintaining wind farms can be very dangerous, and, with the rapid expansion of the renewable energy industry, the risks to offshore workers have increased. As well as protection from the Jones Act, wind farm workers who transport materials to and from the turbines may also be covered by the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act.

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Representation for Seafarers Facing Criminal Charges

As seafarers commonly work within different national jurisdictions, being unaware of a country’s particular laws can leave them vulnerable to facing criminal charges or being asked to testify in a criminal prosecution. Of the seafarers who have found themselves in this situation, less than 10% had legal representation, and the majority felt intimidated. To address this issue, all international crews should have their legal rights explained to them and receive training on how to respond in similar circumstances. By requesting assistance from a local lawyer, and waiting for adequate interpretation services if necessary, seafarers are more likely to be treated fairly.

Working at sea is particularly hazardous. By ensuring seafarers and offshore workers receive adequate legal representation, they are more likely to be treated fairly in the event of negligence or a criminal prosecution.