Rarely Used Barge May Be Vessel in Navigation

Friday, September 13, 2002
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that a fish processing barge that is towed across navigable water twice a year can qualify as a "vessel in navigation" for certain purposes of the Jones Act. In the instant case, plaintiff incurred carpal tunnel syndrome while working as a fish processor on a fish processing barge. The trial court granted defendant owner's motion for summary judgment, ruling that the barge was not a vessel in navigation for purposes of the Jones Act. The barge is a documented vessel, but was granted permanently moored status by the U.S. Coast Guard in 1997. It is towed from Seattle to Alaska each year for the fishing season and then returned at the end of the season for storage. The appellate court noted that the barge is seaworthy and does in fact navigate the seas on occasion. Thus, it cannot be said as a matter of law that the barge is not a vessel in navigation. Martinez v. Signature Seafoods, Inc. Source: HK Law
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