5 basic rights you have under a seafarer’s employment agreement

In an industry as complex as the maritime industry, seafarer’s working rights can seem impossible to keep up to date with. Depending on where your flag is registered, where you’re based now, and the purpose of the yacht’s voyage, your rights will differ.

Many countries have ratified the MLC—the Maritime Labour Convention—which means if you work on a commercial vessel within the waters of a country under the MLC, you are required to be provided with a Seafarer’s Employment Agreement (SEA), as opposed to an old ‘crew agreement’ which was much less stringent on required information.

Here, we go through five details your SEA must disclose clearly and transparently, that give you key working rights whilst on a commercial vessel.

Rights

Employer’s name and address

You are entitled to know the name and address of your employer at a minimum; sometimes, a phone number is included here also. It is important you have a way of directly contacting your employer whilst on board, should you ever need to.

Though an SEA is required to also disclose the shipowner’s name and address, remember that this is often not your employer.

Details of your salary and contract length

Your salary, and importantly, how it is calculated, should be detailed in your SEA. For temporary contracts, this must also include the end date of your contract, and for permanent positions, the conditions under which your contract will be terminated, and any minimum notice periods.

Your paid leave entitlement

The minimum amount of holiday one can accrue under MLC rules is 2.5 days per calendar month spent on board. Some flag states may require more, but none can give less.

An SEA does not specify how or when this holiday can be taken. It is worth checking with your employer about specific arrangements such as how much holiday can be taken at once, whether it includes bank holidays, etc.

Medical insurance arrangements

You should see some sort of medical insurance provided, including benefits if you are sick or injured. This is another area where it is important to ask questions to be clear on what’s covered and what isn’t, as it will vary between different employers and locations.

Right to repatriation

At the end of your employment—or even if you’re fired—the shipowner is to cover the costs of your repatriation. You cannot be made to pay an upfront fee ‘to cover future repatriation costs’ when you join a vessel.

You are entitled to food and accommodation until you have arrived in your previously agreed repatriation destination, and 30kg of personal luggage for your travels. Time spent awaiting repatriation or travel time cannot be deducted from paid leave.

You are also covered against any costs incurred due to necessary medical treatment before being deemed fit to travel to a repatriation destination. The cost of this is covered by the ship owner.

Read more tips, advice and other content for crew here.

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