Are contractors considered crew?

One ocean marine insurance question often leads to another. Take the common question: What coverage is available for independent contractors injured while working aboard my vessel?

The answer? The independent contractor is what’s referred to as a “business invitee” and as such they are treated by your ocean marine ship’s policy as if they were a guest onboard your vessel. This means that they can collect under your policy if your negligence somehow caused their injury. It is very important that any independent contractors who works aboard your vessel proves that they have workers compensation insurance before they begin work.

Follow-up question: Why can’t the ship just add the contractor as another crew? An independent is just that — independent. As such, a contractor is not under your direct control so he or she doesn’t meet the qualification as crew for that reason alone. As operator of your ship, you are asked all the time to prove you have insurance. Why would it be any different when you ask for a contractor to supply proof of insurance coverage?

Follow-up question: How does my ship’s policy protect a temporary crewmember hired to do spring fitting-out or fall winterizing?

This person is “crew” as long as they’re working “in service of the ship.” It is very important to carefully emphasize key words that trigger either land-based insurance coverage or admiralty related insurance coverage. To be “in service of the ship” the crew doesn’t necessarily need to be on the ship, but they better have a strong connection to the workings of the ship.

Follow-up question: How does my ship’s policy cover somebody I hire that works on the ship’s rigging or furnishings but works only on shore at our shore-based building? This person may be a crew person. I strongly suggest that a land-based workers compensation policy be purchased to make sure you’re covered. You may also have coverage under the Jones Act on the ship’s P&I policy in case that person sues under the Jones Act.

A simple question can lead to more complicated details. If you have a question, give your marine insurance agent a call.

About the author

Gene McKeever

Gene McKeever is a marine insurance agent with Allen Insurance and Financial. He can be reached at gmckeever@allenif.com.

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