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Am I impacted by the Jones Act?

Newport residents may have recently heard something about the Jones Act in connection with hurricane response efforts for Puerto Rico and the continental United States. Although the breadth and scope of the act are large, there are certain parts of it that could definitely have an effect on Rhode Island residents.

For instance, do you know that under the terms of the Jones Act, passengers on cruise ships may not disembark from "foreign vessels...between ports or places in the United States?" In cases of emergency, e.g., a family member back in the United States is hurt or ill, under the Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886, cruise passengers who get off the ship between domestic ports are subject to penalties of $300 "for each passenger so transported and landed."

So who pays that tariff? The cruise ship line doesn't. These costs are immediately passed down to the disembarking cruise passengers who must be prepared to pony up those funds.

Why do we need the Jones Act?

If paying that fee seems unfair, you may wonder why legislators don't do away with this piece of legislation. Known alternatively as the Jones Act or the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. The legislation was first signed into law in 1917 by President Wilson.

Its intent originally was to make sure that the United States had a robust merchant marine during wartime. Thus, any goods moving between two American ports must be shipped on vessels staffed and flagged from the United States. No foreign vessels may travel from two points within the U.S. without penalty with any cargo, including human cargo.

Maritime laws are often very different from state and federal laws. If you are filing suit against a cruise ship company or otherwise are subjected to tenets of the Jones Act, you may want to contact a Rhode Island attorney who practices this type of law.

Source: Cruise Critic, "Beware of The Jones Act," Oct. 27, 2017

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