“Yachts are abandoning French waters for more welcoming jurisdictions and French-resident crew are having increasing trouble finding jobs,” declares MYBA President, Fiona Maureo, adding her voice to the lobbying cries of the ECPY, who demand a governmental review of the changes to social security legislation that for the last year have damaged the yachting sector and the job prospects of French-resident crew.
The changes to French social security regulations came into effect on 1 July 2017 obliging all French-resident seafarers and foreign nationals (whose boat is in French waters for 3 or more consecutive months) to enrol on the ENIM social security scheme. Amendments in November 2017 aimed to offer seafarers greater flexibility in how they could comply, approving private insurance schemes if 'equivalent' to the cover provided by ENIM.
Almost a year after the implementation of the legislation, ambiguity and confusion continue to reign since the development of 'equivalent' private cover has not been assisted or validated by government officials. The solutions presented by WYCC and other private companies are therefore ruled out, pending clarification from the state.
Meanwhile, high season is around the corner and industry members across the South of France fear that the downturn evidenced by last summer's low occupancy rates will only worsen, affecting not only yacht crew but also the large network of businesses that support the yachting industry.
The ECPY emphasises this point in its statement: “This is not about mobilising to prevent rich foreign vessel owners avoiding paying taxes or social contributions, but about the survival of retailers, tradesmen, workers and businesses which exist due to the presence of these large vessels in our waters.”
President of MYBA, Fiona Maureso, reaffirms the position of the worldwide association and calls for all interested parties to sign the petition: “recent changes to French social security legislation applicable to French-resident crew have had a huge negative impact on local economies and employment. Yachts are abandoning French waters for more welcoming jurisdictions and French-resident crew are having increasing trouble finding jobs. The ripple effect has been considerable, affecting not just ports and crew but also a wide variety of ancilliary businesses. The French government has turned a deaf ear to the lobbying of MYBA and other industry associations, and seems oblivious to the terrible impact of the new regulations.”
According to the ECPY the negative impact of this legislative environment can be encapsulated in the following points:
French-resident sailors are excluded from jobs on foreign yachts and are losing work
Vessel owners who left France in 2016 are less likely to return since the 90-day rule that defines residence for social security purposes for sailors has not been revoked
Italy and Spain attracted yachts for wintering and refits this winter 2017/2018 that may otherwise have brought their custom to France. Repair yards have seen their order books plummet (down by 30 to 40%)
The custom of foreign vessels and their crew has therefore been diverted to Spain or Italy
The legislation has led to a reduction in income instead of the hoped for increase through ENIM contributions
The petition started by the ECPY demands that the French State assume its responsibilities towards the yachting industry as a whole by repealing the 90 day rule on residence for social security purposes, by clarifying the definition of 'equivalent' supplementary private insurance and by revoking the definition of residence that includes foreign sailors living full-time onboard a yacht.
Bafflement persists at the French government's resistance to discussing the changes with members of the yachting community both before their implementation and since their negative impact has been made manifest. The lack of dialogue hardens positions on each side and reduces hopes of a workable solution to support a thriving industry that brings manifold benefits to the French economy and social fabric.
To add your name to the call for change, sign the petition.
Photo credit: ECPY