Reading your employment contract, a guide for seafarers

Reading your employment contract, a guide for seafarers

Seafarer signing his contract

A seafarer’s first contract signals a lot of things, but for many it is the start of an exciting career and a journey towards a more comfortable future for you and your family. But whether it’s your first contract or one of many, it’s good to know your rights and interests to ensure your seafaring career is nothing but smooth sailing.

Check that the salary stated in the contract is the same as the one advertised or discussed with you by your Crewing Officer

Some agencies will advertise a high a salary only to present a much lower salary on the contract because of hidden deductions or salary benefits that are dependent on other factors.

Double check if your contract mentions a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), if no CBA is present, ask your Crewing Officer to confirm

A Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is a special agreement that applies to a specific vessel. The CBA gives additional or better benefits that are not necessarily included in your POEA-SEC or Seaman Employment Agreement (SEA). Even if the CBA is not mentioned in your contract, but applies to your vessel, it still forms part of your terms and conditions of employment.

If additional benefits like health cards, retirement funds, or bonuses were promised to you, check your contract to see where it is stated

Most crewing agencies or Principals will often promise additional benefits to their seafarers to attract more applicants. However, the terms and conditions of these additional benefits may or may not be indicated in your POEA-SEC or SEA.

To make sure you are fully aware of whether or not you are eligible for these additional benefits, ask your crewing officer to provide you with the written Official Terms and Conditions for these additional benefits before you accept a position with the company.

Know your working hours and rest periods as stated in the contract, versus what is actually practiced on the vessel

The Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) ensures that adequate hours of rest and reasonable work times are stated in a seafarer’s contract. Go through your contract and take note of the details regarding your work and rest periods. When you’re aware of that information, you can ensure that your vessel is following the prescribed hours as indicated in your contract. It will help you check if you are properly paid for any overtime or extra work rendered.  

Take note of your Grievance Procedures and Mechanisms

Trouble onboard? The Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) requires that a process must be in place for dealing with seafarers’ grievances. Your Seafarer Contract may or may not contain the details of how this grievance procedure works. Grievance procedures may also change from ship to ship, principal to principal, or from agency to agency.

If you are not aware of the grievance procedure, ask your Crewing Officer for the Principal and/or Agency’s process for dealing with onboard complaints and grievances

Never be afraid to ask questions

Ask questions to confirm information that’s unclear to you. It’s normal for crewing agencies to post a number of job openings for its different principals. To avoid confusion or a mismatch of expectations, make sure you’re on the same page as the recruitment or crewing officer regarding the position you’re applying for, versus what they’re actually offering you.

May calm seas and fair winds grace your seafaring career! 

We hope this article has helped you in navigating the parts of your contract. Whether it be your 1st or 50thvessel, remember that it never hurts to verify the benefits, and terms of your employment. This piece was inspired by ITF’s Before you board article. Check it out for more advice on your contract, and your rights as a seafarer.

If you’d like to sail with us at Lydia Mar Manila, feel free to browse our current openings here: Apply Now. As an ethical recruiter, we strive to be as transparent as possible with you, while ensuring that your rights are protected as you start—or continue–your career with LMM!