Buffering the Collision Between the Historical Protections for Seamen and the Increasing Use of International Arbitration Agreements

Robert D. Peltz | Article

Today, virtually all seaman working for the cruise lines headquartered in the United States are employed under collective bargaining agreements (CBA) with either the Norwegian Seaman’s Union (NSU) or the Federazione Italiana Transporti (ITF). These unions are financed directly by the cruise lines and have often been criticized for not adequately representing the interests of foreign seaman who are not union members, but are nevertheless covered by their CBAs. These CBAs typically require arbitration in far flung countries such as Panama, Bermuda, Norway, and the Philippines, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority or cruise lines maintain their base of operations in Florida, California, and Washington.

These CBAs almost always include foreign choice-of-law provisions, so cruise lines typically argue that their seaman are limited to the remedies provided under much more restrictive foreign law. Because the arbiters, rather than the courts, determine the law applicable to each case, there is a tremendous amount of conflict and lack of predictability in this system.