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Maritime Geography Zones

Maritime Geography Zones are made up of three loosely defined elements, the meanings of which have slowly changed throughout history. Their interpretations are important when the Jones Act comes into play. According to the Naval Operations Concept of the US Navy in 2010, “blue water” refers to the open ocean; “green water” refers to coastal waters, ports, and harbors; and “brown water” refers to “all navigable rivers and their estuaries”. Some include bays and the first 100 nautical miles from shore, including the Mississippi River and its tributaries, which are also considered navigable waterways for purposes of the Jones Act.

These definitions have a direct effect on cases where the Jones Act applies because it refers to seamen who are injured in the course of their employment. It is the term “employment” that is important here as the definition may vary depending on whether the worker is a blue water seaman (who sleeps on the vessel) or a brown water seaman (who returns home in the evenings). A brown water seaman’s rights under the Jones Act may end when he steps off the boat, however, for a blue water seaman, those rights may extend even if their injury occurs while on shore leave or while traveling to and from work. 

It is important to know the intricacies of these situations in order to best represent an injured party. An injured seaman under the Jones Act is owed Maintenance and Cure; however other laws may come into play for the brown water seaman. Knowing the difference, and how to address those differences in court, is vital.