Modified: November 11, 2022

The Jones Act (Cabotage Law) How Does the Jones Act Affect Cruise Ships?

The Jones Act (Cabotage Law) How Does the Jones Act Affect Cruise Ships?

The United States has a history of predated laws that still affect the country, and the Jones Act is one of those laws. The Jones Act came into effect for the cruise industry in 1920, and even after 100 years, it is still in place today.

The Jones Act is not a law on its own but an addition to the Merchant Marine Act, focusing on the rules concerning the industry and the ports and water of the United States.

What is the Jones Act All About?

Surprisingly, the Jones Act came in the early 1900s for commercial freight shipping companies using the United States’ water and ports. However, today many contribute to the cruise industry’s growth to the Jones Act. In Europe, this Act is also called Cabotage Law.

Passenger Vessel Services Act Comes Under the Jones Act

Since the Jones Act was initially done for the cargo shipping industry, a section called the Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA) was added to incorporate passenger vessels into the Act. Let’s examine the differences between the Jones Act for cargo ships and PVSA.

The Jones Act covers any cargo ship carrying goods from one U.S. port to another. Any boat that wants to move goods from one U.S. port to another must comply with this. Maritime laws meaning it must be built, have the legal ownership, and be documented in the United States.

While on the other hand, the PVSA applies to all cruise ships that move passengers from a U.S. port to any part of the world. Under this law, registration in the U.S. is a must for all cruise ships looking to pick up passengers from any port in the country.

Jones Act and Its Impact on the Cruise Industry

To avoid such laws, cruise lines are going out of their way to register their businesses in other countries with a more peaceful existence. Most countries don’t have such strict laws. This means that cruise lines must pay close attention to their itineraries.

The Jones Act is not perfect and has some exceptions that the cruise lines have taken advantage of. The Jones Act does not allow cruise ships to depart from one U.S. port and arrive at another port in the U.S.

Still, it does allow a cruise ship to depart from one U.S. port, travel to a distant port, perhaps in South America, and then travel back to any of the ports in the U.S.

For example, under the Jones Act, Cruise ships can travel from Miami to any foreign port in South America and then drop the passengers off through the Panama Canal at California port.

Another exception in the Jones Act is that cruise ships not registered in the U.S. can pick passengers up from one U.S. port but can not drop the passengers off at another U.S. port. However, the cruise ship can stop at another U.S. port for a while if it has at least one foreign port stop in its itinerary.

For example, a cruise ship can pick up passengers in Miami, head to California for a quick stop, and continue its journey to any foreign ports, perhaps the Bahamas.

Consequences for Failing to Follow the Jones Act

There are severe fines and penalties imposed on cruise ships that do not follow the laws in the PVSA under the Jones Act. If a passenger on a foreign-flagged ship not registered in the U.S. gets picked up at one U.S. port and disembarks on another, the cruise ship will have to pay hefty fines.

This Act ensures that cruise ships follow such laws while traveling within the country. Let’s take another example to help you understand the parameters of the Jones Act.

A cruise ship picks up a passenger at a U.S. port and stops at another U.S. port for excursion activities. If a passenger gets injured during such activities and decides to pursue medical treatment for their injuries, the ship must pay a fine for it.

If a family member or the passenger’s friend joins the passenger and gets off the ship, the cruise line must pay fines for both the travelers.

There are several situations where cruise lines can get exemptions or apply for a Jones Act waiver. An example is when the Norwegian cruise line got an exemption for operating foreign ships under the U.S. flag.

Although the Act has some exemptions, it has shaped the cruise industry into today. It holds local and foreign ships responsible for not following the law and ensures the safety of the passengers on board.

Ehline Law and Los Angeles Cruise Ship Lawyers

The Jones Act ensures that cruise ship restructures their itineraries and keep a close eye on their passengers at every port. To avoid fines, cruise ships operating in the U.S. make sure they have a passenger list and conduct counts when departing from any port in the same country.

For more information on the Jones Act and PVSA, contact us at (213) 596-9642. Our expert lawyers have a lot of experience dealing with cruise ship incidents resulting in millions in compensation for our clients. If you’ve had any injuries on a cruise ship or lost someone, contact us and get a free consultation on your case today!

Top Notch American Injury Lawyer, Michael Ehline

Michael Ehline

Michael is a managing partner at the nationwide Ehline Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC. He’s an inactive Marine and became a lawyer in the California State Bar Law Office Study Program, later receiving his J.D. from UWLA School of Law. Michael has won some of the world’s largest motorcycle accident settlements.

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