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What is meant by the term “navigable waters” when discussing Jones Act Law?


The Jones Act covers any maritime worker or employee who spends more than 30 percent of his time in the service of a Jones Act vessel on a navigable waterway. In the past, federal courts have interpreted the term “navigable waterways” to include almost any large body of water. The Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico are considered navigable waterways, but so are California’s harbors, rivers and inland lakes.  


Here is a list of navigable bodies of water in California:  

  • Pacific Ocean
  • San Francisco Bay
  • San Pedro Bay
  • Bodega Bay
  • Half Moon Bay
  • San Pablo Bay
  • Suisun Bay
  • Port of San Diego
  • Port of Los Angeles
  • Port of San Francisco
  • Port of Oakland
  • Port Hueneme
  • Port of Stockton
  • Port San Luis
  • Port of Redwood City
  • Port of Richmond
  • Port of West Sacramento
  • Port of Long Beach
  • Stockton Channel
  • Humboldt Bay Harbor
  • Oceanside Harbor
  • Newport Harbor
  • Santa Barbara Harbor
  • Morro Bay Harbor
  • Channel Islands Harbor
  • Dana Point Harbor
  • Avalon Harbor
  • Pillar Point Harbor
  • Santa Cruz Harbor
  • Moss Landing Harbor
  • Crescent City Harbor
  • Clipper Yacht Harbor
  • Marina del Rey Harbor
  • Ventura Harbor
  • Noyo Harbor
  • Wilmington Harbor
  • Santa Cruz
  • Alcatraz Wharf
  • Berkeley Marina
  • Sausalito Marina
  • Vallejo Marina
  • Porto Bodega Marina
  • Point Area Cove
  • Sacramento River
  • San Joaquin River
  • Colorado River
  • Klamath River
  • Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta
  • Lake Tahoe
  • Mono Lake
  • Clear Lake
  • Lake Shasta
  • Lake Almanor
  • Lake Havasu
  • Lake Oroville
  • Trinity Lake
  • San Luis Reservoir

Working on the water is very dangerous. Seamen face many of the same risks as land based workers: overexertion, repetitive motion injuries, slip-and-fall accidents, and dangers from falling objects. They also face unique risks. The Jones Act is a federal law that protects those who work on the water if they are injured while working. Unlike workers’ compensation, the Jones Act allows maritime workers to take action against negligent employers.

If you have been injured while working on a passenger ship, cargo ship, oil tanker, tugboat, oil rig, fishing boat, barge, ferry, tour boat, or any other vessel that regularly travels the waters of California, you may be covered under Jones Act Law.  


William Turley
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