At the International WorkBoat Show in December, I held a seminar about how to insure employees and vessel crews for injuries and illnesses at work. My talk was well received so I thought I’d write a synopsis of it.

WET: Let’s start with the wet environment of a vessel crew. Vessels traveling from port to port in the U.S. are required to have Protection and Indemnity (P&I) for crews, either through self-insurance or a guaranteed cost option, insurance. This covers crews for injuries that are either caused by negligence or an unseaworthy condition. The Jones Act applies here. It’s an adversarial law, meaning the crew person actually claims that the shipowner injured them. The other coverage that applies to both injuries and illness of crewmembers is the law of the sea or General Maritime Law. It is a “no-fault” law that covers the crew regardless of the cause as long as they were “in service of the ship.”

DAMP: This is the area around docks, wharves and other areas around the ships. Employees here are usually stevedores and other employees who service, load and unload ships, and who go on and off ships but aren’t considered crew. These employees are covered by a federal law called the U.S. Longshore and Harborworkers Act (USL&H), enacted in the 1920s. There is much case law regarding this act because many inland (or dry) workers try to claim that this law applies to their injuries. It may seem obvious, but generally a worker will receive more money under this law than workers’ compensation insurance.

DRY: This applies to workers who might occasionally enter a vessel, but are mainly land-based employees. Workers’ compensation laws of whatever state they’re in would apply here. Workers’ compensation laws are no-fault, which means the injury occurred within the course and scope of the employee’s employment. Often a state act (dry) employee will try to claim under the more lucrative USL&H, so there’s a large body of law here, too. This is just a quick explanation and these scenarios can be complicated. Your marine insurance agent can help.


Gene McKeever is a marine insurance agent with Allen Insurance and Financial.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are the author's and not necessarily those of WorkBoat.