Maritime Labor Law Attorneys for Crewpersons and Employers of Crewmen
The crew aboard a ship faces unique labor law issues compared to other occupations, due to the rather tumultuous weather, working, and living conditions. Not only do they face common cases such as the negotiation of fair employment contracts and termination agreements like any worker, but they also face situations involving their rights to accommodation and food, certified medical fitness for sea service, compensation for injury, and even possible death. The Maritime Labor Act (Seearbeitsgesetz) outlines several inalienable employment rights granted to crew members.
Crew Employment Contracts
The minimum requirements for crew member employment are listed under Part 2 SeeArbG, which details the minimum age, medical fitness, qualifications, and placement of the employee. Valid employment contracts for crew members must follow certain guidelines and necessary policies under Part 3 SeeArbG. Included in such employment contracts should be:
- The essential contents of the engagement, §28 subs. 2 sentences 1-13 SeeArbG
- For the crew of fishing vessels, also the inclusion of § 28 subs. 3 sentences 1-3 SeeArbG
- For crew likely to work abroad ashore or on a ship flying a foreign flag for more than one month, also the inclusion of § 28 subs. 4 sentences 1-4 SeeArbG
- The entitlement to record of employment, at the latest on the day of termination of service, § 33 SeeArbG
- The entitlement to travel expense reimbursement, § 31 SeeArbG
- The specific duty of service (§32 SeeArbG), with
- The obligation to be onboard during off-duty hours unless permission to leave was granted (shore leave) in accordance with § 35 SeeArbG
- The right to wage payments as agreed for the duration of the employment engagement, § 37 SeeArbG
- The work hours at sea should not exceed 8 hours per day and should be arranged by the three-watch system, § 43-44 SeeArbG
- The permission of rest breaks and hours of rest is sufficiently long to guarantee the safety and health of crew members, outlined in § 45 subs. 2 sentences 1-2 SeeArbG
- The maximum hours of work shall not exceed 14 hours in any 24-hour period and 72 hours in any seven-day period, § 48 subs. 1 sentence 1 SeeArbG
- The derogation of working time regulations arranged only through a collective bargaining agreement, § 49 SeeArbG
- Maintain a table of shipboard working arrangements and record of work hours (§ 55 SeeArbG) with its regulation in accordance to §§ 2-7 See-ArbZNV.
- Clear entitlements to leave (§ 56 SeeArbG), the duration of leave (§ 57 SeeArbG)
- Standard notice periods as listed in § 66 SeeArbG, with extraordinary cases as described in § 67-69
- The Entitlement to repatriation in specific cases (§ 73 SeeArbG), to specific destinations (§ 75 SeeArbG), through which form of implementation with costs borne to the shipowner (§ 76 SeeArbG)
- The establishment of protocol in regards to the death of a crew member, including arrangements for burial and the costs borne from the burial (§ 79 SeeArbG)
- The right to accommodation (§ 93 SeeArbG) and food (§ 97 SeeArbG)
- The entitlement to medical care, with certain specific reservations (§ 99-103 SeeArbG)
Concerned employers of crewpersons and crew members themselves are invited to go over Part 2 and 3 of the Maritime Labor Act in full detail with our competent employment law attorneys.
Termination of crew members
- § 65-72 of the SeeArbG goes over the terms for terminations and notice periods.
As crew members work in a “moving workplace” and cannot simply leave on their own at the end of their termination, the crew are entitled to repatriation, in accordance with § 73 SeeArbG:
- in the event of illness or injury in accordance with § 105,
- when the engagement is terminated; in the event of ordinary notice after the expiry of the notice period under § 66,
- in the event of the shipowner no longer fulfilling his/her legal or contractual obligations as an employer due to insolvency, sale of the ship, change of ship’s registration or any other similar reason,
- if the ship is to sail in an area in which particular dangers are imminent because of armed conflicts, and to which the crew member does not want to sail, or if the ship does not leave such an area without delay,
- when the shipowner abandons the crew member (§ 76a subs. 1 sentence 3).
The crew member holds the choice of destination of repatriation (§ 75 SeeArbG) and the shipowner shall make arrangements and bear the costs (§ 76 SeeArbG).
Working and living onboard
As the ship is both a crew person’s place of work and living, there are special protections established for fair hours and living conditions provided by their employers. The accommodations, recreational facilities, and food and catering standards for crew persons are regulated in accordance to §§ 93-98 SeeArbG.
Moreover, detailed rules and specificities of accommodations and recreational facilities are regulated in accordance to the Ordinance on Accommodation and Recreational Facilities for Crew Members on Board of Merchant Vessels (Verordnung über die Unterkünfte und Freizeiteinrichtungen der Besatzungsmitglieder an Bord von Kauffahrteischiffen, SeeUnterkunftsV). This ordinance applied to ships flying the German flag and at least 24 m in length.
Labor law for inland waterway shipping
While maritime transport largely contributes to the economic resilience of Germany and the designation of Europe’s logistics hub, the many inland waterways that course through the country form a highly developed inland shipping system. The Inland Shipping Working Time Ordinance (Binnenschifffahrts-Arbeitszeitverordnung – BinSchArbZV) applies to crew members on commercial inland navigating boats operating within the Federal Republic of Germany. Much like the Maritime Labor Act, the ordinance covers various work regulations for inland shipping crew, such as working hours, breaks and rest periods, seasonal work, and obligations to keep records of daily work/rest times of employees.
Seafarer safety and Maritime Labor Law changes in regards to the Coronavirus
As with all infectious diseases, preventing the spread of coronavirus on board should be taken seriously for any ship. As the situation continues to change on a daily basis, it is important for updated regulations regarding quarantine and testing. Additional updates are issued periodically by Deutsche Flagge in this matter.
For crew people concerned about the validity of their seafarers’ certificates, such documents issued by the German Maritime Administration and due to expire before July 1st, 2021 was automatically extended by 6 months.
The attorneys of ZELLER & SEYFERT will fight on your behalf when it comes to the Employment Law rights of the crew aboard German-flagged ships or crews aboard foreign-flagged ships in German waters / inland waterways.