Apart from maritime lawyers and the workers themselves, few people realize how hard maritime employees, including Jones Act seaman and longshoremen work every day. The Los Angeles Times has a report on the especially tough conditions that pilot boat operators work in.

These pilot boat operators are entrusted with delivering port pilots to and from ships. Pilots are needed to steer cargo vessels before they enter or leave ports, and the pilot boat operators ferry these pilots to the vessel that needs them, and back again. There are no fixed working hours, and operators may be required to ferry pilots at any hour of the day. There may be several trips ferrying pilots (click for photos) to and from the ships, in a day. Job hazards include going out to ferry pilots even in raging storms. Things don’t always go as smoothly as planned even in perfect weather, and there may be falls overboard, slip and fall accidents and injuries to operators as well as their passengers.

These jobs involve round the clock duties, especially in busy ports, like Houston, Galveston, Freeport and others around Texas that can see thousands of ships a year. The Port of Houston last year had more than 8,000 vessel calls.  On any given day, there may be 50 vessels arriving at or leaving this Port.   When you consider how busy these ports are, you get a sense of how hectic the lives of these pilot boat operators can be.

Typically, pilot boat operators may not be assigned to a specific vessel, and so may not qualify for Jones Act seaman status. They are more likely to be covered under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, but it’s best to consult with a maritime lawyer to resolve questions of status.

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