Warranty of Seaworthiness Law and Legal Definition

Warranty of seaworthiness refers to a warranty whereby the ship-owner agrees to provide a seaworthy vessel to carry the goods specified in a contract of affreightment or for voyage. Sea worthiness is the ability of a ship or other vessel to make a sea voyage with probable safety. In a voyage policy, there is an implied warranty that the ship shall be seaworthy for the purpose of the particular adventure insured. It involves the owner's absolute duty to furnish a vessel, crew, and appurtenances reasonably fit for their intended use.

The following are a few rules established in regard, to the warranty of sea-worthiness.

  • Whether the insured was aware of the condition of the ship, or not is of no consequence. His or her innocence or ignorance is no answer to the fact that the ship was not sea-worthy.
  • The opinion of carpenters who have repaired the vessel is not conclusive of the fact of sea-worthiness. It may strengthen the presumption that the ship is sea-worthy.
  • The prima facie presumption is for sea-worthiness. It is presumed that a vessel continues sea-worthy, if she was so at the inception of the risk.
  • Any sort of disrepair left in the ship, by which she, or the cargo may suffer, is a breach of the warranty of sea-worthiness.
  • A deficiency of force in the crew or of skill in the master or mate amounts to want of sea-worthiness. But if there was sufficient crew in the commencement , their temporary absence will not be considered a breach of the warranty. A vessel may be rendered not sea-worthy by being overloaded.
  • When the sea-worthiness arises from justifiable ignorance of the cause of the defect, and is discovered and remedied before any injury occurs, it is not to be considered as a defect.

Maritime law provides a cause of action for injuries resulting from defects or insufficiencies of a vessel, its crew, or its appurtenances that undermine the vessel's seaworthiness, render it unfit for its intended use, or make the vessel an unsafe place to work. Rivera v. Herndon Marine Prods., 895 S.W.2d 430, 434 (Tex. App. Corpus Christi 1995).

The warranty of seaworthiness is a species of liability without fault. An owner of a vessel is under an absolute, nondelegable duty to furnish a safe, seaworthy ship, complete with a competent crew. This duty is completely independent of an owner's duty under the Jones Act. [The Jones Act grants seamen rights against their employers for injuries caused by the employer's negligence]. In order to succeed on a claim for unseaworthiness, a plaintiff must only show that "the unseaworthy condition of the vessel was the proximate or direct and substantial cause of the seaman's injuries." [Rigdon Martine Corp. v. Roberts, 270 S.W.3d 220, 227 (Tex. App. 2008)]