Before an injured seaman can receive any of the remedies available to him, it must be determined that the injured person has seaman status, i.e. he or she is, in fact, a seaman. While there is no international definition of seaman, the meaning incorporates historical principles and modern elements to be broadly referred to as a maritime worker who works on a vessel who works on a vessel on navigable waters, contributes to the functioning of the vessel and the accomplishment of its mission and has a connection with the vessel.
The key to seaman status is employment-related connection to a vessel in navigation. An employee’s duties must contribute to the function of the vessel or to the accomplishment of its mission. It is important that a seaman aid in navigation or contribute to the transportation of the vessel, but a seaman must be doing the ship’s work.
The italicized comments are taken from the Wilander case of the US Supreme Court 1991.
As a result of this decision the test for seaman status is composed of two parts:
- The worker must have an employment related connection to a vessel in navigation; and
- The worker must contribute to the function of the vessel or to the accomplishment of its mission.