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Are seafarers’ contracts set in stone?

Crew hired on contract would not say no to provisions from employers’ empathy

The industry has heard enough of the challenges faced by crew – anything from lacklustre welfare to crew change from stricter border closures. Seafarers are often hired on contract. However, did it occur to any employer provisions can be made in the events of unforeseen circumstances?

New way of seafarer employment
Seafarers were known to get the short end of the stick for years and put up with it mostly for financial reasons. Last year, the industry wondered if employers were willing to cover COVID-19 as part of seafarer insurance. The bane of it all was more costs. Nations with crippled supply chains were lobbying for vaccines to be extended to seafarers. Now that this is gradually in place, reports of side-effects had seafarers change their minds about getting vaccinated. This unfortunately complicates insurance for seafarers. On the flip side, would employers be willing to revisit the contract terms given the volatile market conditions?

The typical duration of a seafarer’s contract is 12 months and any extension would have to be mutually consented. Yet, the Omicron is making many employers struggle with crew change thanks to borders’ slamming shut to contain outbreaks. Seafarers onboard were left to wait till the authorities let them in provided all protocols were fulfilled. In the event of vessels unable to berth because of border restrictions, would employers extend some form of provision in the contracts? After all, it was not within any party’s control if the port of call is not prepared to open its doors for public health’s sake.

Nevertheless, employers can reciprocate by offering better provisions in employees’ contracts to address crew change. That is not to imply it is employers’ blanket responsibility when border restrictions get stricter, but a gesture to demonstrate employers are well-aware of the situation as not within anyone’s control. Some other welfare benefits would be certainly appreciated. Taking it further, it can also be viewed as a strategy for talent retention.

Crewing Online News Team
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