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PYA – Employment Contracts On Pleasure Vessels

Employment Contracts on Pleasure Vessels

We would like, once again, to remind crew working on ‘pleasure vessels’ (i.e. yachts which do not charter and which are not covered by the Maritime Labour Convention 2006) of the importance of having, even if it’s not legally required by the Flag State, written evidence showing the terms and conditions that have been agreed between the seafarer and the employer.

Ideally, even if it is not required by the Flag State, the written evidence should be in the form of a Crew Agreement (which is an agreement made with the whole crew) or a contract of employment (which is an agreement made with each individual seafarer), but even an exchange of e-mails showing what was agreed can be useful if there is a dispute.

Note: The UK and some other Flag States have specific requirements for documenting the employment of seafarers on pleasure vessels. The UK requires (see MGN 474 (M)) that a ‘Crew Agreement’, in an approved form, be opened if more than four crew are paid and the vessel makes voyages other than ‘coastal voyages’.

Time and time again, members come to the PYA for help in resolving disputes with their employer and we find that there is nothing in writing to show what was agreed.

This example, recently received from a PYA member, illustrates the problem:

“This boat and others in my past have had inadequate or no contract at all, it’s hard to challenge but I have and will continue to. This story helps to explain why it’s needed; everyone on XXXX thought they had a good relationship with the owner, little did they know.”

Terms and conditions

Whether you will be working on a commercial yacht or a pleasure vessel, we strongly recommend that you reach an agreement with the Captain on all of the terms and conditions of your employment before you join the yacht. As these discussions are likely to take place during a period of some stress and the Captain may be pressing you to sign on quickly, it is sensible to have a little checklist to ensure you don’t miss anything.

The topics that need to be discussed and agreed should include:

  • Your position on board and the duties this entails
  • The duration of the employment: indefinite or for a fixed period?
  • The salary (amount and currency) and any bonuses such as a 13th month
  • How will the salary be paid?
  • What is your social security status and will payment be made on your behalf?
  • Your entitlement to paid holidays and to free travel for holiday purposes
  • Duration of the trial period and the notice to be given during the trial period
  • Notice to be given after the trial period
  • The date and place of joining and who pays for your travel to get there
  • The repatriation destination and who pays for your travel to get back there from the yacht
  • Normal working hours? Saturday working?
  • How are tips handled?
  • Will time off be given for outside training? Will the time be paid or unpaid? Will the training be paid?
  • What   medical   cover   is   provided?   Does   it   cover   you   when   not   working?   Does   it   have   any restrictions?
  • If you’re a smoker, the rules about smoking on board
  • If you’re drinker, the rules about drinking on board


Some employment contracts, but not SEAs, may include a clause that allows the employer to set off any accrued leave against the notice period when you leave. Watch out for this because it can come as a nasty surprise.

Having reached an agreement, it’s wise to make a record of what has been agreed. The simplest way to do this is to ask the Captain to send you an e-mail containing the job offer and stating the agreed terms and conditions. Many Captains do this anyway as part of their crew recruitment procedure.

If you are in any doubt over a contract (or lack of), as a PYA member, you can seek advice from our team.