New UK Seafarers Wages Act draws mixed reactions


The Seafarers’ Wages Act received Royal Assent last week and is now law, meaning thousands of seafarers regularly entering UK waters should enjoy better pay protections. The move is designed to boost seafarers’ rights and working conditions while preventing firms from using legal loopholes to pay low wages.

As a key strand of the government’s 9-point plan for seafarers, the new law is designed to protect those working on vessels operating an international service from being paid less than the National Minimum Wage. The law change will also require authorities to charge operators of vessels who do not provide evidence they’re paying their seafarers the equivalent to National Minimum Wage and to refuse harbour access to those who continue to fail to comply.

Responding to the new law, Chief Executive of the Merchant Navy Welfare Board (MNWB) Stuart Rivers said: “This is a landmark moment for the sector. Thousands of seafarers will now have extra security in respect to pay and working conditions following a year of turmoil after the mass sackings made by P&O Ferries.

“Ensuring seafarers have the highest level of welfare support is imperative – and seeing this legislation given Royal Assent is a big step to achieving that.”

But UK-based union Nautilus International warned that the Seafarers’ Wages Act ‘will not stop another P&O Ferries from happening again’.

Nautilus executive officer Martyn Gray said: “Nautilus International welcomes the passing of the Seafarers’ Wages Act. We support the aim of this legislation to ensure workers on vessels that are regularly docking in UK ports are paid at least the UK national minimum wage.

“However, the Seafarers’ Wages Act will not, by itself, force a change to P&O Ferries’ exploitative crewing model or stop another P&O Ferries from happening again. Government must do more to end the race to the bottom in terms and conditions for maritime professionals exacerbated by P&O Ferries. This must start with implementing a mandatory seafarers charter, backed up by bilateral agreements with neighbouring countries, that ensures wages and safe roster patterns reflective of local standards, not international minimums.”