Your rights

As a seafarer you have rights - employment rights, legal rights, trade union rights and human rights. In this area you will find information about what your rights are, how to defend them and what the ITF is doing to protect them. If your rights have been tampered with, then you also need an atorney specialized in maritime law. If that will be the case, write to us and we will help you find

Please use the links below to view content in this section.

Over the years the ILO has maintained and developed a system of international labour standards aimed at promoting opportunities for women and men to obtain decent and productive work, in conditions of freedom, equity, security and dignity. KEY INTERNATIONAL LABOUR STANDARDS The ILO sets international labour standards through key international agreements. The eight ‘core’ ILO Conventions cover the fundamental rights expressed also in the Declaration. These Conventions cover:

  • -Forced labour

  • -Freedom of association and protection of the right to organise

  • -Right to organise and collective bargaining

  • -Equal remuneration

  • -Abolition of forced labour

  • -Discrimination (employment and occupation)

  • -Minimum age

  • -Elimination of the worst forms of child labour

DECLARATION ON FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES AND RIGHTS AT WORK Declaration of Fundamental Rights at Work (1998) enshrines the right of workers to organise and bargain effectively, as well as freedom from discrimination and other basic employment rights. In addition to the fundamental labour conventions the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work adopted in 1998 is an commitment by governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations to uphold basic human values - values that are vital to our social and economic lives; to respect and promote principles and rights in four categories, whether or not they have ratified the relevant Conventions. These categories are: freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining, the elimination of forced or compulsory labour, the abolition of child labour and the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation. The Declaration makes it clear that these rights are universal, and that they apply to all people in all States – regardless of the level of economic development. It particularly mentions groups with special needs, including the unemployed and migrant workers. It recognizes that economic growth alone is not enough to ensure equity, social progress and to eradicate poverty. THE MARITIME LABOUR CONVENTION The Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 requires all governments which have ratified the convention to have laws and regulations that safeguard the following fundamental rights:

The right to freedom of association (the right of seafarers’ to join a trade union of their choice)

Effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining (the right of a union to negotiate a CBA on seafarers’ behalf)

The elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour (seafarers’ right to work of their own free will and to be paid for that work)

The effective abolition of child labour

Elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation (seafarers’ right to be treated in the same way as fellow seafarers doing the same work regardless of race, religion, nationality, gender, sexual orientation or political views).

In brief, the seafarers have a right to a safe and secure workplace, where safety standards are complied with, where you have fair terms of employment, decent living and working conditions and social protection such as access to medical care, health protection and welfare.

ITF advice on your contract to work at sea The best guarantee of proper conditions of employment at sea is only to sign a contract drawn up in accordance with an ITF-approved collective agreement. Failing that, here is a checklist to follow. Don’t start work on a ship without having a written contract. Never sign a blank contract, or a contract that binds you to any terms and conditions that are not specified or that you are not familiar with. Check if the contract you are signing refers to a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). If so, make sure that you are fully aware of the terms of that CBA, and keep a copy of it along with your contract. Make sure that the duration of the contract is clearly stated. Don’t sign a contract that allows for alterations to be made to the contractual period at the sole discretion of the shipowner. Any change to the agreed duration of the contract should be by mutual consent. Always ensure that the contract clearly states the basic wages payable and make sure that the basic working hours are clearly defined (for example 40, 44 or 48 per week). The International Labour Organisation states that basic working hours should be a maximum of 48 per week (208 per month). Make sure that the contract clearly stipulates how overtime will be paid and at what rate. There could be a flat hourly rate payable for all hours worked in excess of the basic. Or there may be a monthly fixed amount for a guaranteed number of overtime hours, in which case the rate for any hours worked beyond the guaranteed overtime should be clearly stated. The ILO states that all overtime hours should be paid at a minimum of 1.25 x the normal hourly rate. Make sure that the contract clearly states how many days paid leave per month you will get. The ILO states that paid leave should not be less than 30 days per year (2.5 days per calendar month). Make certain that the payments for basic wages, overtime and leave are clearly and separately itemised in the contract. Don’t sign a contract that allows the shipowner to withhold or retain any portion of your wages during the period of the contract. You should be entitled to full payment of wages earned at the end of each calendar month. Never sign a contract that contains any clause stating that you are responsible for paying any portion of your joining or repatriation expenses. Don’t sign a contract that contains any clause that restricts your right to join, contact, consult with or be represented by a trade union of your choice. Be aware that an individual employment contract will not always include details of additional benefits. Therefore you should try to obtain confirmation (preferably in the form of a written agreement or contractual entitlement) of what compensation will be payable in the event of:
– Sickness or injury during the contractual period
– Death (amount payable to the next of kin)
– Loss of the vessel
– Loss of personal effects resulting from the loss of the vessel
– Premature termination of the contract. Ensure that you are provided with and retain a copy of the contract you have signed. Remember… whatever the terms and conditions, any contract/agreement that you enter into voluntarily would, in most jurisdictions, be considered legally binding.

If it looks too good to be true it usually is There are various types of cruise fraud, but they almost all depend on the offer of jobs that require no qualifications but which will pay high wages or attract large tips (the same thing applies to false job offers on oil rigs). The main type involves a promise of work in return for a bribe or payment. This may be disguised as an ‘agency’ or ‘registration’ fee or, increasingly, as payment for a medical examination, visa, passport processing or bank transfer that is only asked for when you think you’re on the point of getting the job. It may be made to look like something you have to pay a government department, clinic or bank, or you may be asked for money for airfares to join a ship and promised you’ll get the money back when you’re arrive. You won’t. Other frauds include:
Payment of money direct to a local bank in order to join a cargo ship (often supposedly waiting for you in Port Harcourt Nigeria).

Payment to have your job application or CV circulated to prospective employers, often with a guarantee that if you don’t get a job you’ll get your money back. You can usually be sure you won’t get either.

Websites that invite you to post your CV for free. Your personal details can be used for identity fraud, especially if you are then approached by an employer who asks you to send your passport and seafarers’ certificate (this is also a common feature of the Nigerian scam mentioned above, whose perpetrators regularly use different company names, including ones supposedly based in the USA or Europe).

Unsolicited job offers that arrive by e-mail.

How do they get away with it? By using high quality websites, newspaper adverts and fictitious addresses in countries such as the UK in order to appear legitimate, or by laying a trail through several countries in order to confuse jurisdiction or hide their location in a country where the authorities either don’t care or will turn a blind eye. An example of this is Caledonian Offshore, which uses a post office box address in Canada when in reality it’s based in Panama. The biggest scam the ITF has ever had to fight was the Al-Najat scheme, which was based in the UAE but which defrauded thousands and thousands of victims through levying a ‘medical fee’ while working with the governments of the many other countries affected. Who should I avoid? We could give a list of the companies and websites we’ve exposed but it would quickly become out of date. It’s important to remember that the criminals who run them are easily able to change their ‘company’ names from one week to the next. They can also use a name that is close to, or the same as, a legitimate enterprise (but with a different address or bank or Western Union transfer details.) As long as governments leave them unmolested they’ll keep trying to part honest jobseekers from their money. How do I know who to trust? At first, you won’t. You can’t trust glossy websites or newspaper ads or, in some cases, even governments or banks. What you can trust is the simple fact that if it looks too good to be true it usually is. Requesting advance payments for work on ships is prohibited under international maritime conventions, so you should not be asked for one. If instead you’re told you need to pay airfares or registration fees ask yourself why the people who are offering these well paid jobs can’t find that money themselves. Look out too for the use of box numbers and false addresses and take time to do a Google search on the company name and ‘scam’ or ‘fraud’ or ‘warning’. If nothing turns up but you’re unsure that the company is legitimate you can approach your national seafarers’ trade union or the ITF for advice. Above all remember that you shouldn’t have to pay for work at sea and that if anything about a job looks wrong or looks like what you’ve read here you should stay well away from it.

ITF Agreements are only those that are approved by the ITF. ITF Agreements only apply to ships flying a Flag of Convenience (FOC)*. ITF Agreements are signed by a maritime union and shipping company, either the beneficial owner or the operator or the manager of the ship. The union must be affiliated to the ITF. The signatory union is normally from the country where the beneficial shipping companyof the ship is based. Often, the union(s) of the crew’s home nation(s) also takes part in the negotiations. This is to ensure that the agreement takes into account any national laws and customs and so that the crewmembers are able to become members of their national union. Occasionally the ITF will sign an agreement directly with the shipowner. If you are covered by an ITF Agreement, but there is not an ITF affiliated union in your home country, the ITF will represent you in matters to the employer.
An ITF Agreement comprises of the following:

Special Agreement This is the legally binding document that binds the employer to the relevant ITF approved Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). It states which CBA applies, it gives the details of the ship covered and it states the dates the agreement is valid from/to. It states the shipowner obligations and it also states the legal right of ITF representatives to access and inspect the vessel for compliance with the agreement. Click the link to see an example of a Special Agreement.

Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) This is the document which details all the terms and conditions of the crew employed on the ship. It specifies entitlements such as pay (in the form of a wage scale), working hours, etc. Use the links below, or click on the related documents on the right of this screen, to see the texts of various ITF Collective Bargaining Agreements.

Individual employment contracts These are the contracts which link individual crew members to the ITF Agreement and relevant CBA. They list the details of the seafarer, the employer, the vessel and they state the terms and conditions of the CBA that apply to that particular crew member. So, for example, if he/she is an AB it will give the basic pay, guaranteed overtime, overtime rate, leave pay and subsistence allowance that apply to an AB. There should be 4 copies of the Seaman’s Employment Contract: one for the seafarer to keep for his/her own records; one for the ship’s file; one for ITF London; and one for the company’s file. Click on the link to see an example of a individual employment contract.

>When a ship owner signs an ITF agreement, they undertake to:
Apply the CBA’s relevant employment conditions laid out in the CBA;

Incorporate those employment conditions into individual employment contracts and into the ship’s articles;

Ensure there is appropriate insurance to cover the company against all liabilities in the relevant ITF Agreement;

Accurately record working hours;

Provide the ITF with a current crew list;

Pay union membership fees to the signatory union or the ITF Special Seafarers’ Department; and

Pay the ITF Welfare Fund contributions.

ITF Agreements fall into three main categories:

Standard Agreement The ITF Standard Agreement is normally signed as a result of industrial action or if a company is found to have broken a previous agreement. It is the most costly agreement for the ship owner. Click on the link to see the ITF Standard Agreement.

Total Crew Cost (TCC) Agreement The ITF TCC Agreement is the most common type of ITF Agreement. Most affiliated unions use the ITF Uniform TCC Agreement. There are several other types of TCC agreement, all ITF approved, which have been adopted by different affiliated unions worldwide. Whilst they may vary slightly (mainly due to the requirements of their national legislation) they are all based on the ITF Uniform TCC and meet with established ITF minimum standards. Click on the link to see an example of the ITF Uniform TCC Agreement.

International Bargaining Forum (IBF) Agreement IBF Agreements are only available to ship owners that are members of one of the ship owners’ associations that sit alongside the ITF in the International Bargaining Forum (IBF). IBF Agreements vary in content but all fulfil minimum criteria. Employers negotiate their own IBF Agreement with the local union, normally once a year. Click on the link to see an example of the IBF Framework TCC Agreement.

Other specialist ITF agreements include:
ITF Offshore Standard Agreement

ITF Cruise Ship Agreement for Catering Personnel

To find out if your ship is covered by an ITF agreement, click on the link. * Non-FOC or national flag ships may be covered by National Agreements, but these are a matter for the local union in the flag country.

If your ship is covered by an ITF agreement, you are entitled to the ITF wages in that agreement. See the wage scale documents on the right of the page for the wage levels that apply to the core ITF agreements. To find out if your ship is covered by an ITF agreement, click on the Look Up a Ship tab above. For national flag vessels, the ITF believes that no seafarer should be paid below the ILO level. ILO recommended basic minimum wage for an AB The main aim of the minimum basic wage for the able seafarer is to provide an international safety net for the protection of, and to contribute to, decent work for seafarers. It is based on the provisions of the ILO Seafarers’ Wages, Hours of Work and the Manning of Ships Recommendation, 1996 (No. 187) which recommends that the basic pay or wages for a calendar month of service for an able seaman should be no less than the amount periodically set by the Joint Maritime Commission, which is bipartite body of shipowners and seafarers established by ILO. The Recommendation itself define seafarer as “any person defined as such by national laws or regulations or collective agreements who is employed or engaged in any capacity on board a seagoing ship ….” The Joint Working Group of the Joint Maritime Commission met in July 2003 and agreed on joint interpretation of the total monthly minimum wage of able seamen. This interpretation only relates to the earnings for an Able Seaman and should not be construed as implying an interpretation of the earnings that should be received by other grades of seafarer. The following principles are applicable as found in the relevant ILO Maritime Instruments:

Principle Details
Minimum Basic Monthly Wage As agreed by the ILO Joint Maritime Commission from time to time.
Normal Working Hours 8 hours per day, 48 hours per week (which equates to 208 hours per month).
Leave Leave shall in no case be less than 30 calendar days for one year’s service i.e. 2.5 days per calendar month. One day’s basic wage = basic monthly wage divided by 30. Multiply by 2.5 to get leave pay per month.
Overtime Rate Each hour of overtime should be compensated at a rate of 1.25 x the basic hourly rate (the monthly basic wage divided by 208).
Weekly rest day and Public Holidays Work performed on the weekly day of rest and on public holidays should be duly recorded and signed by the seafarer and should be compensated by: 1. overtime remuneration in respect of each hour worked at the rate of 1.25 times the hourly rate for normal hours OR 2. in lieu of remuneration, at least equivalent time off duty and off the ship at the rate indicated in 1 above OR 3. additional leave in lieu of remuneration at the rate indicated in 1 above
Overtime Hours Overtime records should be kept and signed by the seafarer and the master or duly authorized officer.

The last ILO Subcommittee on Wages of Seafarers of the Joint Maritime Commission met in April 2011. The Subcommittee agreed that the recommended basic minimum wage should be raised to US$555 as of 1 January 2012, US$568 as of 1 January 2013 and US$585 as of 31 December 2013. •    Minimum basic monthly wage (01/01/2012) – $555 USD •    Minimum basic monthly wage (01/01/2013) – $568 USD Minimum basic monthly wage (31/12/2013) – $585 USD The next meeting will take place in 2014.Taking into account the principles above the total negotiated settlement at present time is as follows:

minimum basic monthly wage (01/01/2012) US$ 555.00
2.5 days leave per month US$ 46.25
104 hours overtime per month US$ 346.88
8 hours compensatory leave for public holidays US$ 26.68
Total US$ 974.81
minimum basic monthly wage (01/01/2013) US$ 568.00
2.5 days leave per month US$ 47.33
104 hours overtime per month US$ 355.00
8 hours compensatory leave for public holidays US$ 27.31
Total US$ 997.64
Minimum basic monthly wage (01/01/2012) US$ 585.00
2.5 days leave per month US$ 48.75
104 hours overtime per month US$ 365.63
8 hours compensatory leave for public holidays US$ 28.13
Total US$ 1027.51


For further information on what the wages for different positions on board might look like, please see the documents linked on the right of this page.

Please use the ITF Look Up a Ship tool to find specific flag, agreement and inspection information on your ship. For Port State Control records and other ship information, please use the ship search tool within the Equasis website. Equasis is a European Union project aimed at reducing substandard shipping. The information contained within the site is collected from many different maritime industry sources and is free to use subject to a simple registration process. The ITF also contributes to this website by providing basic details on vessel agreement coverage, latest crew list composition and the last ITF inspection directly from the ITF's central system. Once registered it is possible to view this information by:

Searching for a vessel using the IMO no, vessel name or call sign

Once the required vessel has been selected click on the Inspection & Manning option

On the displayed page click the ITF logo, from which a new page will be displayed with the relevant information.

Know Your Rights! Seafarers’ rights is a complex area since your rights can exist at different levels and they can be overlapping and sometimes conflicting. Therefore if you have a legal problem, you will need to seek advice from your union and from a lawyer who will discuss your specific situation. This information is general advice only. Sources of Seafarers’ Rights:
Flag State law A ship has the nationality of the flag that it flies. Also, under international law, the laws of a flag State apply to a ship regardless of the location of the ship. Therefore you - as a seafarer - are entitled to the protection of, and are governed by, the laws of the flag State wherever the ship is and regardless of your nationality. For example, if you are a Filipino seafarer on a Panama flag ship, you have rights (and obligations) under the laws of Panama. So, always be aware of what flag your ship is flying and where necessary, ask for assistance to find out what are the laws of that flag State.

Port State law When your ship enters a port, that port State can exercise certain powers over the ship whilst it is in port. Generally a port State does not intervene in the internal affairs of a ship unless there is a dispute which concerns the peace and good order of the port (for example if a crime is committed on board a ship). However in many jurisdictions around the world, if you have a legal claim, for example for unpaid wages, you will be able to start a legal action in the courts of the port State. Again where necessary, ask for assistance to find out what are the laws of the port State.

Your home State You will be able to rely on rights contained in your home State law if that law governs your contract of employment. Otherwise, if you are in trouble when abroad, your home country should provide support and assistance through its consular offices. Therefore ask for assistance through consular officers.

Your contract of employment Your individual contract of employment will set out what your rights are as between you and your employer. Your contract may be (1) a private contract and/or (2) a collective bargaining agreement produced by a trade union or an employers’ association and/or (3) a form of contract in which the government has taken an active role (such as the POEA Contract: Standard Terms and Conditions governing the employment of Filipino Seafarers onboard Ocean Going Ships). Your contract may be directly with the shipowner, or it may be with a manning agent, or it may be with some other agent for the shipowner. All these different arrangements can affect your rights. However above all it is important that you have a copy of your contract of employment, that you read it and that you know what rights are contained in it.

International laws International laws are laws made at the highest level between States. Since it was founded in 1919, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has set international labour standards for all workers, and specifically has set standards for seafarers in more than 65 Conventions and Recommendations. These instruments, taken together, constitute a comprehensive set of standards and concern practically all aspects of living and working conditions of seafarers. In February 2006, these existing conventions and recommendations were updated and consolidated in the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, a single, coherent international maritime labour standard for seafarers that 2006 enters into force on 20 August 2013.

Human rights instruments also exist at international and regional level which may be relevant to the rights of seafarers. Also at the international level, Conventions of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) impose obligations on States, a number of which have the effect of creating benefits for seafarers.

DO YOU NEED A LAWYER ? CONTACT US NOW AND WE WILL HELP YOU FIND THE BEST ONE ! As a seafarer you have rights, but unscrupulous employers will sometimes try to undermine those rights. Standing up for your rights can sometimes seem too difficult or daunting. However, there are plenty of things you can do to stand up for your rights:
Hire a maritime Lawyer.
Contact an ITF Inspector.
Contact the Union you are part of.
Make copies of all documents and do not sign anything unless you are helped by some of the above personalities.
When in great risk contact the police or the FBI.

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