you need to remember that a US citizen seaman is a “ward of the court” and thus has unique access to Federal Courts in the country…there is no delineation in the law that mandates the flag of the vessel a US seaman is serving provided the vessel be in navigation and that 30% of the complainant’s employment is as a seaman serving a vessel.
Now say I am a US seaman working for say BP on a Liberian flagged tanker in waters outside the US and I am injured in my employment? Where do I seek redress…in Liberia, the UK or the USA? If I try to get redress at the first two and can’t or don’t, then I can seek it in the USA by reason I am an American seaman. Now, since BP has a US corporate presence, they can be subpoenaed in the US and if there is an award of damages, any of their ships calling in the US can be attached by a US Marshall until I receive my money.
The U.S. Congress adopted the Merchant Marine Act in early June 1920, formerly 46 U.S.C. § 688 and codified on October 6, 2006 as 46 U.S.C. § 30104. The act formalized the rights of seamen.
The Jones Act allows injured sailors to make claims and obtain damages from their employers for the negligence of the ship owner, including many acts of the captain or fellow members of the crew. It operates simply by extending similar legislation already in place that allowed for recoveries by railroad workers and providing that this legislation also applies to sailors. Its operative provision is found at 46 U.S.C. § 30104, which provides:
Any sailor who shall suffer personal injury in the course of his employment may, at his election, maintain an action for damages at law, with the right to trial by jury, and in such action all statutes of the United States modifying or extending the common-law right or remedy in cases of personal injury to railway employees shall apply…
This allows U.S. seamen to bring actions against ship owners based on claims of unseaworthiness or negligence. These are rights not afforded by common international maritime law.
The United States Supreme Court, in the case of Chandris, Inc., v. Latsis, 515 U.S. 347, 115 S.Ct. 2172 (1995), has set a benchmark for determining the status of any employee as a “Jones Act” seaman. Workers who spend less than 30 percent of their time in the service of a vessel on navigable waters are presumed not to be seaman under the Jones Act. The Court ruled that any worker who spends more than 30 percent of his time in the service of a vessel on navigable waters qualifies as a seaman under the act.
An action under the Jones Act may be brought either in a U.S. federal court or in a state court. The right to bring an action in state court is preserved by the “savings to suitors” clause, 28 U.S.C. § 1333. The seaman-plaintiff is entitled to a jury trial, a right which is not afforded in maritime law absent a statute authorizing it.
The U.S. Congress adopted the Jones Act in 1920, formerly 46 USC Sec. 688 and codified on October 6, 2006 as 46 USC Sec. 3010. The Jones Act formalized the rights of seaman which have been recognized for centuries.
From the very beginning of American civilization, courts have protected seaman whom the courts have described as 'unprotected and in need of counsel; because they are thoughtless and require indulgence; because they are credulous and complying; and are easily overreached. They are emphatically the wards of admiralty."
further I never said US seamen were suit crazy (far from the opposite) but saying why foreign shipowners are scared of them and unwilling to assume the risk of hiring them if others can be employed