The LeadersIn Maritime Law

What Is a Crewmember?

In the traditional sense of the word, "crewmember" is a generic term that is used to refer to any individual who works on a vessel. A crewmember, therefore, is anyone who works in the deck department or otherwise contributes to the navigation of the vessel. For example, if citizens of foreign countries work on board a vessel—such as a cruise liner or a fishing ship—they are permitted to enter into the United States after obtaining a crewmember (D) visa.

The following workers require a crewmember (D) visa:

  • Captains, engineers, and deckhands on a vessel
  • Lifeguards, cooks, and waiters on a cruise ship
  • Trainees on board a training vessel

Crewmembers and the Jones Act

The maritime term "crewmember" is legally meaningful and relevant in Jones Act cases. The Jones Act (otherwise known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920) is a federal statute that provides formal protection to seamen. While the Jones Act also deals with other maritime issues (such as cabotage), one of the most important sections provides formalized rights for injured sailors—allowing them to make legal claims to collect certain benefits. An injured offshore worker's right to benefits under the Jones Act is extended to seamen who are generally believed to be "a shipmaster or crew member." To qualify as a seaman, a maritime crewman:

  • Must contribute to a vessel's function or accomplishment of its mission
  • Must be connected with a vessel in navigation
  • Must have a connection that is substantial in duration and nature

Individuals who further the functioning of the vessel are typically considered to be crewmembers and are therefore afforded protection under the Jones Act, granting them certain benefits in the wake of an accident.

If you would like to learn more about crewmembers and the Jones Act, please contact us today!

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