Can yacht crew refuse repatriation?
With new provisions to financially assist crew in the event of being asked to leave a superyacht, we ask what is legally required when a crewmember might not want to receive those funds.…
A recent Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC) amendment stipulates that owners must provide a certain level of financial security for their crew, the details of which can be found here. (This topic and will be discussed in the 'Operations commentary' in issue 177 of The Superyacht Report - subscribe here.) Part of the amendment (Standard A2.3.2) details the obligation of the owner to provide finances to assist crew in the event of 'abandonment', defined as "when the owner fails to cover the cost of a crewmember's repatriation".
But a less discussed problem is this: what happens if a crewmember refuses repatriation? This could be for a reason as simple as the crewmember wishing to remain in Palma, for example, to dockwalk and seek a new employment opportunity. Yet in a Seafarer Employment Agreement (SEA), required under the MLC, a crewmember's 'home' must be stipulated, and this must be where they return as part of their repatriation.
"In this case, a written agreement, signed by crewmember and captain, would be required," confirms Andrea Pezzini, Floating Life CEO, at the management company's Captains' Meeting in Nice. "This is because the seafarer has three months to complain about not receiving repatriation." With this in mind, if there is no evidence of an agreement that the crewmember does not wish to have the funds provided for a ticket home, the crewmember, at any time within those three months, can still request this. And without proof that the crewmember didn't want the funds, these will likely have to be paid.
"It is important that captains maintain any documentation to do with [their crew and] updating regulations, to maintain a good relationship with both the owner and the crew," advises Pezzini, who adds that "medium-sized yachts" (around 40m, he explains) often rely on verbal agreements between captain and crew. "This doesn't work on commercial superyachts anymore," he says, adding, quite simply, "Don't forget this."
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