The Public Vessels Act (PVA) is a federal maritime law. It permits legal action against the US for damages caused by a public vessel of the US and for compensation for towage and salvage services, including contract salvage, rendered to a public vessel of the US.
A suit filed under the Public Vessels Act is carried out according to the principles of an action in rem if it could be inferred that an action in rem might have been maintained if the vessel or cargo was privately owned and possessed. The PVA shall be applicable only in cases of injury occurring while employed by the government or on board a government-owned or government-operated vessel.
The PVA has been enacted in favor of the US. Therefore an action could be brought against the US under PVA only by strict compliance of requirements.
According to the PVA, suit may be maintained in actions involving foreign owners of damaged vessels only in cases where an American national could sue under the same circumstances in the country of the claimant.
The PVA provides that in actions involving foreign owners of damaged vessels, suit may be maintained only in cases where an American national could sue under the same circumstances in the country of the claimant. If an American battleship collided with a Norwegian steamship, a suit under the PVA could be maintained, provided it could be proved that courts of Norway would have entertained suit of American citizen against Kingdom of Norway under similar circumstances. The PVA provides that the US is entitled to the benefit of all exemptions and limitations of liability accorded by law to the owners, charterers, operators, or agents of vessels.