Charting a new course for crewing

Friday 08 September 2017

Scott Le Cornu, Manager - Crewing, Equiom Jersey, discusses crewing as a service, its relevance in the Channel Islands and the opportunities and challenges it faces.

Crewing in the Channel Islands

The Channel Islands is a hotspot for the provision of crewing services. Since the 1970’s the influx of crew employers to the Channel Islands has created a need for crew service providers to establish themselves to offer specialist payroll and HR services. Historically this was limited to providing employment contracts and payroll services. However with the development of maritime legislation (inclusive of Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) and Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC)) and increased risk of litigation, the demands of today’s crewing services have increased. Crewing service providers need to be able to structure employers as separate legal entities and provide Seafarer Employment Agreements and policies and procedures to comply with the international maritime, flag and domestic legislation, while mitigating the risk of crew claims. In providing services to commercial vessels the employer now needs to be certified as a recruitment and placement agent and undertake annual inspections by a regulated authority.

Upcoming changes in the crewing sector

While currently a little known sector, crewing is increasingly facing a number of additional challenges that will again bring it into the spotlight. The main driver of change in the sector is likely to be domestic legislation around social security charges. In France, a number of potential requirements were recently introduced for French resident seafarers. This not only affects seafarers who are physically resident but also crew on board a vessel with France as their home port. 

Going back a bit to the MLC which was introduced as a pivotal treaty for the maritime sector, new guidelines and regulations for vessel owners and their crew were enforced. These were designed to protect the rights of workers and their employers at sea and set industry standards on areas such as contracts, pay, rest hours, leave and health, but also addressed the previously absent matter of social security.

Commonly, when setting up new crew members as employees aboard a vessel, employers or owners of the vessel, under MLC are only required to consider three branches of social security (normally Medical Care, sickness benefit, and disability benefit) however MLC goes on to state that seafarers ordinarily resident in a territory should not receive less favourable conditions than those of shore workers. This is likely to mean that more jurisdictions will start to impose domestic legislation on the marine sector, which becomes significantly more complicated when you take into consideration the multi-national crew on each vessel.

Crew service providers will also need to consider the EU General Data Protection Regulation. This is likely to give rise to considerable challenges with regard to the handling of personal employment-related data, particularly when sent to non-EU/EEA countries.

The future for crewing 

These factors paint a very different picture for the sector in the future. For crewing providers, it could mean hiring more experts in this area or seeking the advice of a legal professional. It could also lead to an increased amount of business. Furthermore, the UK’s impending departure from the Single Market will bring its social security relationship with the rest of the EU under question. As a result of new negotiations post-Brexit, there could be a number of changes to social security. In the interim, yacht owners may be cautious about registering their vessel in the UK.

It will be interesting to see how the sector develops following these changes and Equiom will be watching with interest as the new legislation takes effect.


If you have any questions or would like to discuss your situation, please contact Scott Le Cornu