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UK guidance over seafarers affected by crisis

The UK Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) has issued guidance for shipowners, masters, manning agents and seafarers on 11 March 2022 over the special situation in Ukraine

Under the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC), 2006, seafarers on UK ships are entitled to return home after serving their Seafarer Employment Agreement (SEA) or after the maximum service duration of 11 months. However, the UK government has acknowledged the ongoing special circumstances in Ukraine that has left seafarers affected by the crisis in an awkward position – there may be obstacles when sending them back home and some seafarers may also not wish to return home.

Working around a unique situation
Based on the guidance, all seafarers who are working on UK-flagged vessels and are affected by the Ukrainian crisis can extend contracts with their employers, under mutual agreement, up to 11 consecutive months without notification to the MCA. Beyond 11 months, if the seafarer choses to remain on board, the MCA would have to be notified with a letter of approval sent to the Port State Control with the agreement of both parties.

The letter of approval would require the following information:

  • Seafarer’s start date;
  • Seafarer’s contract expiry date;
  • Seafarer’s rank;
  • Name of vessel;
  • Seafarer’s nationality; and
  • Written confirmation from seafarer requesting the extension.

Should any seafarers affected by the crisis choose to return home, the destination can be changed upon mutual agreement.

Regarding the payment of wages, if seafarers or their families are concerned over the accessibility to the wages, alternative payment methods can be arranged if there is written request from the seafarer.

The wellbeing of seafarers was considered as well. The guidance recommends that the Master and fellow seafarers be alert for signs of fatigue, and work arrangements should be readjusted to allow rest periods/shore leave when possible for seafarers who have extended their contracts. Increased connectivity for seafarers affected by the crisis to allow them to contact home and gain accessibility to entertainment on board was suggested too.

According to the notice, the guidance would expire 31 December 2022 and should be read in conjunction with the Merchant Shipping (Maritime Labour Convention) (Minimum Standards for Seafarers etc.) Regulations 2014 and the Merchant Shipping (Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping) Regulations 2015.



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