This month, Camper & Nicholsons International brings you up to speed on the implications that the MLC 2006 has in a legal SEA (Seafarer's Employment Agreement).
You saved up and sweated through the STCW 95. You booked your flight to Antibes, finally got a spot in a good crew house. You waded through countless agency registrations and met a few good crew agents. You walked the docks, handed out CVs, dressed up for interviews… All in the hopes of eventually signing that piece of paper that means you are officially part of this luxury industry called yachting.
Since MLC 2006 came into effect in August 2013, it seems like even a simple signature on a contract has become more complicated. But you must remember that this legislation exists for your safety as a seafarer. It is an attempt to bring the industry up to a certain standard and spell out some of the particularities that might have been overlooked before. The primary purpose of your contract is to protect your rights, so you shouldn’t go into your first job searching for red flags. No one is out to get you, at least not that we are aware of. It simply means that you should be informed about what your contract is supposed to say.
As we have specified before, these rules only apply to commercially registered yachts, therefore, if you are joining a private yacht, they are not compelled to provide the same securities. In that case, it’s up to you to decide how comfortable and confident you feel. Nevertheless it is always a good idea that there is some sort of contract in place, even if it is a simple, written understanding.
According to the MLC handbook, these are the main things that are required to appear in a legal SEA (Seafarer’s Employment Agreement).
Your name, your birthday, and your place of birth. Pretty basic. You will be referred to as the Employee.
The Employer’s name and address. Often there will not be a phone number, but make sure there is at least some way to contact them in case you have any questions. It is important to note here the possible distinction between the Employer and the Ship Owner. You are entitled to know who owns the yacht as well, but this person might or might not be the one who employs you.
Other basic information that must appear includes your job title, your salary or at least how it will be calculated, and the place where the contract is being signed. This might very well be different from where you will join the yacht.
As for the end of the contract, if it is a temporary agreement, the end date should be specified. If it is permanent, you should see the conditions under which the contract can be terminated and the notice period that must be given. In case you were curious, that notice period cannot be shorter than seven days, but keep in mind you can always be asked to leave immediately for gross misconduct.
You should be informed of your paid annual leave, or holiday due. This depends on the flag state under which the yacht sails. However, the minimum under MLC is 2.5 days per calendar month that you are on board. Some questions you might want to think about are if holiday can be taken over several periods or if it includes bank holidays. You might also have training benefits on board so it is interesting to know if, when, and how they come into effect.
You should see some sort of medical insurance, including benefits if you are sick or injured. This is an area where it will be important to ask questions to be clear. Better not to wait until you have hefty hospital bills to find out if they are covered or not.
And finally, you are entitled to repatriation, and the destination should be agreed upon and listed in the contract. If it is not discussed then it might be assumed that you are to be sent back to where you were picked up, which might or might not be your first choice if you were a lucky dock walker. In short, after 11 months of service, every crew member is entitled to a minimum of one flight “home,” meaning a place where you have some sort of tie… Probably a family or a house.
A bit dull I know, but this is where it all begins, so best to start off on the right foot. That means being informed so that there are no surprises. A contract can range from a very simple agreement to quite a complex document. Neither is better, but take the time to read it. Under MLC 2006, you are entitled to ask for a contract in your native language if you find it too difficult to understand. However, keep in mind that most likely you are being hired under the condition/assumption that you speak English fluently. If something doesn’t seem right to you, seek some advice before signing. This is your right and you should never feel pressured.
Direct any specific questions to the person who sent you the contract or the yacht manager if there is a company in charge, but this is where we advise you to be reasonable. Remember that you are out there looking for a job. And though it is important that you enter into a fair agreement, it won’t make the best first impression if you come in tearing your contract to pieces. We just want to make sure the essentials are covered. After all, MLC is new to everyone.
For further information, please contact Camper & Nicholsons International's Crew Division