This week, our maritime law expert, Eleni Melekou, spoke with a master of a vessel from New York, who is trekking on with caution.
The master was close to entering into a contract with a shady maritime agency for work placement upon a vessel in the Gulf of Mexico.
Luckily, Eleni was there to help. Upon reviewing the contract, she noticed a few terms that would have been a major cause for concern for the master.
- The agency was requesting authorization to receive checks directly from the shipowner (paychecks with his wages and to place them in an "escrow" account)
- The fees that the agency will recover from the placement were unclear. Even if the master was terminated for any reason, even without cause, he would have to pay fees to the agency.
- If the master had any claim against the agency including the transfer of his paycheck to his account, he would have to bring his claims in Alabama and incur all the legal fees and expenses of the agency. The agency had drafted so carefully the contract so that the master would incur his own legal fees, costs and expenses in case of a dispute with the agency.
- It was unknown whether the contract of employment with the shipping company where he would be placed through the agency would be between the agency as an agent of the seaman and the shipping company OR the shipping company and the master of the vessel.
Some of these terms proved to cause major issues with the enforcement of the master's rights under the Jones Act and the Merchant Marine Act 1920.
What is the Jones Act?
- Requires goods to be shipped between U.S. ports to be transported on ships that are built, owned, and operated by United States citizens or permanent residents.
- Provides sailors with additional rights, including the ability to seek damages from the crew, captain, or ship owner in the case of injury.
If you are a seaman and you are dealing with shady terms of similar maritime agencies or agencies in general, call Eleni at 212.213.8511.