CENTER FOR SEAFARERS' RIGHTS
The Seamen's Church Institute
Telephone: +1 212-349-9090 Fax: +1 212-349-8342
This booklet has been written to inform you of some of your rights and to help you find assistance if your rights have been violated. It is based on the "Merchant Shipping (Masters and Seamen) Law," (called in this booklet, "MSL," followed by the section or part number). Some sections of the law may have changed since the publication of this booklet. This is not a statement of the law, but only a quick reference based on Cyprus maritime law and regulations.
The Center for Seafarers' Rights is ready to assist all seafarers who feel that their rights have been denied and who wish to assert their rights to fair and decent working conditions.
We encourage questions, comments and suggestions from readers of this booklet. Comments and contributions regarding the text are welcome so that corrections and improvements may be incorporated in the future editions.
On every ocean-going ship, the Master must make an Agreement with every seafarer. The Agreement must first be signed by the Master or an agent, dated that day, and then signed by you, the seafarer. The Agreement is then entered in the ship's Articles.
The written Agreement must include the following:
- your name, date, and place of birth, and Current address;
- how long this voyage or this employment will last;
- the parts of the world, if any, to which the ship will not sail;
- the place and time at which you must be on board or start work;
- the job which you are to perform and your duties;
- the amount of wages you are to receive;
- the amount of food and water you will receive on board; and
- any regulations as to conduct, fines and lawful punishments, as approved by the Council of Ministers of Cyprus (MSL Part IV, 12).
The Agreement with the crew may also refer to or include the provisions of a collective agreement (MSL Part IV, 12(6)).
You must also be given an account book required by Cyprus law (MSL Part IV, 11(1)(b)).
The Articles of Agreement (Contract) can cover one voyage, more than one voyage, or a definite length of time, such as one year (MSL Part IV, 12(4)).
The Agreement between Master and crew ends:
- when the time set in the Articles of Agreement ends (if the ship is at sea at this time, the contract is extended to the end of the voyage);
- at the end of the voyage for which you were hired, if no other time is set in the Agreement (the voyage ends when the cargo or passengers have been discharged at the port of destination);
- on the occasion of the wreck or loss of the ship;
- when the ship no longer flies the Cyprus flag; or
- on the occasion of the sale of the ship at public auction (MSL Part IV, 13(1)).
The Master may terminate the Agreement:
- when you fail, without reasonable cause, to join the ship on the date set in the Agreement;
- when you are absent without cause;
- when you are guilty of "grave misconduct" which endangers the safety or good discipline of the ship; or
- whenever the ship becomes unseaworthy.
You may terminate the Agreement:
- when, after one year from the date of signing on, you give proper notice;
- when the ship has been in a Cyprus port for a period longer than three months; or
- when at any time the Master is guilty of a "grave infringement" of the Master's duties towards you, the seafarer (MSL Part IV, 13.).
When you are signed off, at a port outside the republic of Cyprus the Master must give you a certificate of discharge, and your certificate of competence (MSL Part X, 65).
You have the right to be paid the wages promised in the Agreement, and all wages due to you must be paid before your agreement is terminated (MSL Part IV, 25).
If the Master fails to make payment at the appropriate time, you are entitled to 2 days pay for each day during which payment is delayed. The sum payable shall not exceed ten days double pay (MSL Part VI, 25(2)).
Your right to wages does not depend on the ship's earnings (MSL Part VI, 36(1)).
You cannot be required to give up the right to place a lien on the ship for your unpaid wages (MSL Part VI, 35).
If the ship is wrecked or lost, or sold at public auction, before your Agreement ends, and you remain unemployed, you are entitled to receive wages for up to two additional months (MSL Part VI, 37).
You have the right to provide in the Agreement that a portion of your wages, not to exceed one-half, may be sent to your dependents at home (MSL Part VI, 28(1)). The dependents have the right in such cases to sue in a Cyprus court to recover any allotments that they have not received (MSL Part VI, 32).
Right to Sue to Recover Unpaid Wages
You, or any other seafarer on a Cyprus flag ship, including the Master, who has not been paid the wages owed, have a right to sue in a Cyprus court for the payment of the wages owed (MSL Part VI, 44).
[In many other ports around the world, regardless of the flag of the ship, you have the right to sue the ship to recover unpaid wages.]
At least 24 hours before signing off, you have a right to receive a full account of your wages, including any deduction to be made from your wages (MSL Part VI, 22).
No deductions may be made that are not listed on that account (MSL Part VI, 23).
When signing off, you must sign a release, and on that release you make a note of any claim or demand you still have against the owner or Master (MSL Part VI, 26(5)).
Once you have signed an Agreement, if your employment is terminated through no fault of your own before the voyage begins, or before you have finished one month's work, you may have a right to extra pay. In addition to any money you have earned, you have the right to receive a maximum of two months' wages (One month's wages if you are terminated in a Cyprus port) (MSL Part VI, 42).
As a seafarer on a Cyprus flag ship, you have a right to sufficient and decent food and water.
If three or more crew members feel that they are not getting enough food or that the food is of poor quality, they have the right to file a complaint with an officer of the Cyprus Department of Merchant Shipping or a Consular Officer, or a Port Health Officer. (See address at the back of this booklet). (MSL Part IX, 53(1)).
If the inspecting officer decides that there were no grounds for your complaint, you can be fined up to one week's wages (MSL Part IX, 53(3).
In certain cases, you may receive compensation if the provisions are bad quality and unfit for use (MSL Part IX, 55).
Each ship must have on board a supply of medicines and instructions for using them, as prescribed by law (MSL Part IX, 57).
If you are injured or become sick, the entire cost of treatment, including hospital bills, doctors' bills and medicines, shall be paid by the owner of the ship, and shall not be deducted from your wages. The Master has the same rights.
The owner is also responsible for paying for your food and lodging until you are cured and returned either to the ship, to the port where you signed on, or to a port in your home country (MSL Part IX, 59).
Wages must continue to be paid during the cure unless or until your employment is terminated because you are no longer able to work (MSL Part VI, 38; See also Part X, 66).
If you are left behind because you can no longer work on a ship, you must be paid the amount of wages that are owed to you up to the time your employment is terminated, before you are repatriated (MSL Part X, 66; Cf. VI, 38).
In a case where an incapacitate illness was caused by your own willful act, you will not be entitled to wages for the time you were unable to work (MSL Part VI, 39).
In case of the death of a seafarer, burial expenses are to be paid by the owner (MSL Part IX, 59).
If your employment is terminated at the end of your contract, or without your consent before your contract ends, you have a right to be repatriated at the owner's expense to the port where you signed on the ship, or to your home country, or to a port mutually agreed to by you and the Master (MSL Part X, 65).
Travel costs and the cost of food and lodging while you travel shall be paid by the owner (MSL Part X, 65).
If you are shipwrecked or abandoned or left behind and the owner fails to repatriate you, the Republic of Cyprus will take ultimate responsibility for your maintenance and repatriation (MSL Part X, 67).
The above list of rights does not include all rights or duties of a seafarer on a Cyprus flag ship. There may be other issues on board ship which are not directly covered in this booklet, or by the laws and regulations that are summarized here. For example, no attempt has been made here to summarize the laws of Cyprus with respect to disciplinary matters affecting seafarers on Cyprus flag ships.
Whenever you have a problem on a Cyprus flag ship, you may contact:
Department of Merchant Shipping in Cyprus
PO Box 56193
Any union to which you belong.
Finally, if you have a question about your rights, or any problem, you may contact: