If you work on a foreign-flagged cruise ship in American waters, you may have wondered why you cannot sail from one port to another within America itself. This is a common question for those who work out at sea. The answer lies in the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, and, to a lesser degree, the Jones Act statute that lies within it.

What Is the Merchant Marine Act?

The Merchant Marine Act of 1920 was created to eliminate competition issues and protect American seamen all at the same time. It prohibits port-to-port shipping within the United States unless both the ship itself and those who work on it are of American citizenship. Additionally, it lays out guidelines that require the ship itself to be constructed within the United States as well.

Why Cruise Ships Aren’t Allowed to Travel Port-to-Port

If you work on a cruise ship belonging to an American company, you may be wondering why you can’t travel port-to-port. Many cruise ship companies register their ships to a foreign port purposefully; this has significant tax advantages. It also means that the ship may not need to follow the Jones Act itself, which protects seamen and employees in the event of an accident.

Controversy Surrounding These Travel Practices

The fact that certain ships aren’t allowed to travel port-to-port in the United States has caused controversy, both throughout history and in modern times. Some individuals believe that the act limits trading freedom, thereby dramatically increasing the cost of shipping between American ports.

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Others disagree, suggesting that cruise ship owners and foreign shipping companies disagreeing with the Jones Act is a bit like wanting their cake and wanting to eat it, too. They get special tax breaks because the ship is foreign and filled with foreign employees, but then they also want the special privileges that come with American-owned ships, too. A number of attempts to change or alter the law have been attempted in the past, with little success.

Jones Act lawyers deal with cases relating to situations like this each and every year. Often, after an accident while at work on a ship, the Jones Act will play a role in whether or not longshoremen and employees are entitled to compensation. For more information about this and other maritime law topics, visit Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., Accident & Injury Lawyers today.