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MCA Clarification: SEAs and Crew Agreements

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Having heard some of the stories on social media of late, there is still some confusion around the requirements for yacht crew employment contracts.

Clarification can be found in the MCA's Guidance Note, MGN 474 (M), which outlines the requirements for yachts subject to compliance with MLC 2006 as well as pleasure yachts in private use. 


For all commercial vessels subject to compliance with MLC 2006, crew must be employed under a Seafarers’ Employment Agreement (SEA). 

Vessels not subject to the requirement to use SEAs may still require these on a voluntary basis, subject to MCA approval as long as they provide at least equal protection for seafarers as a Crew Agreement.

Employment Contracts for Vessels not Subject to MLC 2006 Compliance 

For these vessels, MGN 474 (M) confirms the continuing requirement for Crew Agreements to be maintained on board, although there are several options and exemptions are possible on formal application:

Non-Standard Crew Agreements 

Employers wanting to use non-standard or modified crew agreements must submit these to the MCA for approval a minimum of 28 days before the agreement is required to be used and must comply with ILO Convention 22 (Seamen’s Articles of Agreement) as well as UK law.  

Indefinite Crew Agreements 

MCA can approve agreements without a specified time limit, but along with the usual provisions of a fixed term agreement, additional information is required. Also, since a seafarer employed under an indefinite crew agreement can give notice at any time, regardless of the ship’s location, the MCA normally only approves such agreements when limited to the Near Coastal Area to protect employers from high costs of repatriation. Approval can be obtained for the Unlimited Area if the employer confirms in writing that they will take full responsibility for the costs of repatriation regardless of the ship’s location.

Exemption fron Requirement to have a Crew Agreement 

The Secretary of State (in practical terms the UK MCA) may grant exemption from the requirement to have a crew agreement if it is satisfied that the seafarers to be employed under a company contract will be adequately protected.

For full details please refer to MGN 474 (M) and page 25 of MLC 2006 below.

See MGN 474 (M)
MLC 2006, Regulation 2.1 Seafarers’ Employment Agreement 

Note: MCA no longer produces the documentation required for Crew Agreements and this is now the responsibility of the shipowner/employer. 

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