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Seafarer shore leave: are you getting yours?

20 May 2024

The ITF Seafarers' Trust is asking all seafarers to complete a confidential shore leave survey to find out what ongoing issues and challenges still exist in the wake of the pandemic crew change crisis.

The information crew members provide will be used by the Trust to improve seafarers’ welfare services and wellbeing in ports.

The Trust provides grants to improve facilities and services for seafarers in ports, such as seafarer centres and vehicles.  The new questionnaire is intended to enhance its understanding of access to shore leave, identify potential barriers and guide its grant-making strategy regarding port based welfare. 

Under the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC), seafarers have the right to adequate leave – paid annual leave and shore leave – for the benefit of their health and well-being.

The Covid-19 pandemic restrictions often went against the provisions of the MLC and caused a crew change crisis which stranded an estimated 400,000 seafarers from across the globe on ships.

Despite the pandemic being declared officially over in May 2023, access to shore leave appears to be a continuing problem. If this is something you have encountered, please share your experiences in the survey

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Shore leave: your rights

Entitlement to annual leave is enshrined in the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC) under Regulation 2.4, which states that seafarers should have adequate leave – paid annual leave and shore leave – for the benefit of their health and well-being.

The regulations are summarised below:

  • flag states have to determine minimum standards for annual leave, taking into account your special needs as a seafarer
  • employed seafarers are entitled to 2.5 days of paid annual leave per month of employment, and an additional 8 days of paid leave per year in respect of public holidays
  • justified absences from work, such as sickness or attendance at an approved training course, cannot be considered annual leave. It is forbidden to deny or buy off your entitlement to paid annual leave
  • while you are on leave, all other contractual entitlements still apply; when you have signed off, the contract ends
  • you should have the right to take annual leave in your home country unless you agree otherwise. If you do have to take your leave from a different place then you should be entitled to free transportation at the shipowner’s expense to your place of recruitment as well as subsistence for the duration of the journey. The travel time should not be deducted from your paid annual leave

The UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency has also published a Merchant Shipping Notice (MSN 1877) on the application of the MLC  hours of work and leave regulations (MLC Regulations 2.3 and 2.4) as they apply to UK ships and non-UK ships with no maritime labour certificate in UK waters.

Image: Danny Cornelissen

Nautilus guide to the MLC MCA guide to shore leave regulations


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