Differences in employment rights between private and charter yachts

There are two main types of job in the yachting world: charter yacht jobs, and private yacht jobs. There are varying benefits to both, but how do your employment rights vary between the two? Is a private yacht required to provide you with the same protections and rights that a charter yacht has to?

Well, if it’s currently a privately used yacht but also registered as commercial in a flag state that’s ratified by the MLC, then there isn’t much to worry about, as your minimum rights will match those of any other seafarer on a commercial vessel; you will be given a Seafarer’s Employment Agreement, and there’s rigid requirements on what this document must contain. However, even within MLC-compliant flag states, private yachts with no commercial registration can still provide crew agreements. These are really important to read, cover to cover, before you join a private yacht, or you could be in for a nasty surprise down the line.

Be wary of job offers on private yachts, no matter how small, that don’t seem to be willing to provide any kind of contract. Depending on what flag state a yacht is registered to, the requirements of owners of private yachts when it comes to crew employment aren’t quite as rigid as others, so it’s not a bad idea to seek advice from officials within the flag state of the yacht if you’re worried.

You don’t need to look too far to find angry Facebook comments from crew of private vessels who are embroiled in battles trying to claim back wages they believe they are owed, who are very likely to be unsuccessful, as they never signed a sufficient crew agreement that states they ever earned them.

Private yachts tend to be more relaxed affairs, and can exist and be used without many of the hoops that charter yachts have to jump through; so it is, unfortunately, natural that the enforcement of employment rights is less focused on. There are typically less management companies, brokers and agents involved in the operations of a private yacht, so it’s far more important for the crew member themselves to ensure their rights are protected.

To summarise, the short answer to the headline question is: whatever rights your contract says you have. Jobs on commercial yachts tend to be more ‘by the book’, whilst private yachts tend to provide custom agreements. That’s not to say they wish to break the law, or intend to do so when it happens; you just need to do a little bit more of your own vetting.

Crew Corner
March 12, 2021
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