Seafarers' Rights On Norwegian International Registry (NIS) Ships
CENTER FOR SEAFARERS' RIGHTS
The Seamen's Church Institute
Telephone: +1 212-349-9090 Fax: +1 212-349-8342
As a seafarer on a Norwegian or Norwegian International Ship Registry (NIS) flag vessel, you have rights that are guaranteed by Norwegian law. In addition, you have certain duties and obligations when working on board an NIS vessel.
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 Chapter II of the Seamen's Act of May 30, 1975 and Regulations established January 31, 1986. (In this booklet, the letters "SA" refer to the Seamen's Act, and the letters "REG" refer to the Regulations. Each followed by the appropriate section number). Where a rule applies only to NIS ships, the rule is followed by (NIS), and the section number.
The Seaman's Act applies to any person who is employed on board a Norwegian ship, and who does not only work on board while the ship is in port. Persons who are neither residents in Norway or Norwegian nationals and who are hired by a foreign employer to serve passengers on board a cruise ship, are only subject to the provisions § 4, § 18, subsection 1, first and second paragraph, however, with the exception of the right to be transferred under the second paragraph, § 18 subsection 3 as well as §§ 26, 27, 39, 40, 43, 45, 48 and 49. (SA §1)
This is intended as a quick reference and not a complete statement of the law. Some sections of the law may have changed since the publication of this booklet.
Your employer is required to keep a copy of the Act on board your ship and available for your inspection.
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 so that corrections and improvements may be incorporated in future editions.
In order to work on board an NIS vessel, you must be at least 17 years old. (SA 1§4)
Your contract must detail the terms of your employment. You and your employer must sign it. You have the right to keep one copy of your contract. (REG 4 §2)
Seafarers on NIS ships are usually employed under a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). A Collective Bargaining Agreement is a contract between your employer and a trade union. The CBA along with your Employment Contract governs your wage and working conditions and must be available to you in writing. (NIS § 3)
Your Employment Contract must include the following information, except if you are neither a resident in the EU country nor a Norwegian national and are employed as a Catering Personnel on board a cruise ship owned/operated by a foreign company:
- your full name, birth number or date of birth, full address and nationality;
- the full name and address of your employer;
- the place and date you entered into the contract;
- the amount of wages you are to receive each month including any agreement as to overtime payments (except in the case of Collective Agreements, when reference is made to a wage scale instead);
- the day your wages become payable;
- the name of the vessel if you are to serve on only one vessel. (The shipping company and not a particular vessel employ you. You have a right and duty to work on any of your employer's ships unless your contract or collective wages agreement states otherwise);
In addition, your articles may include:
- an agreement to work on ships belonging to other companies;
- your job title and some duties which you are to perform. Norwegian law, your collective agreement, tradition, and practice determine your duties aboard ship. Your articles should be updated in writing if changes are made in this area;
- if a collective wage agreement is used, either a reference should be made to the collective agreement, or details of the agreement should be included in the contract;
- some collective agreements include provisions about probationary periods;
- the length of employment (you may be employed for a period of time or a particular voyage);
- the length of your probationary period if one exists (it may not be more than 6 months);
- Your articles are subject to Norwegian laws. However, claims concerning your service on the ship may be taken to either a Norwegian court or to a court in your own country of residence. (NIS § 6)
(SA 3 §39)
You have a duty to comply with the orders, which you are given during the course of your employment.
You shall treat the ship and its cargo with care.
If you are prevented from reporting aboard at the proper time, you must notify the master without delay.
You shall cooperate completely with all safety measures meant to prevent accidents and hazards.
The number of hours you will be expected to work, including overtime will be included in your contract or collective wage agreement.
On an NIS vessel, ordinary working hours shall not exceed 8 hours per day or 40 hours per week.
The hours of rest shall not be less than:
1. Ten hours in any 24-hour period; and
2. 77 hours in any 168-hour period.
Hours of rest may be divided into no more than two periods, one of which shall be at least six hours in length and the interval between consecutive periods of rest shall not exceed 14 hours. For seafarers on watch, the provisions of subsection 1 and 2 need not be observed in the event of an emergency situation or work as a consequence of a drill or other exceptional operational conditions.
Your articles will state the day that your wages begin. The latest date will be the day you begin work on board. If you must travel to the ship from the place where you entered into the contract, your wages shall begin the day you start your journey to the ship.
Wages run up to and include the final day of employment unless otherwise agreed upon in a collective wages agreement.
Each month, you are entitled to receive a written statement of the wages you have earned. The statement will include the amount of your wages earned, the method of calculation, and any possible deductions. At the end of your employment, you shall receive a settlement of wages form from your employer, which will be signed by you and your employer.
If your wages are calculated per day, based on a monthly wage, one day's wages shall equal 1/30 of the monthly wage.
If your wages are calculated per day, based on the entire voyage, your entire wage for the voyage will be divided by the total number of days to reach a daily amount (seafarers are rarely employed on a per-voyage basis).
If the actual voyage is shorter than expected, you are entitled to the entire wage stated in your articles. If the actual voyage is longer, you are entitled to additional wages based on the daily fraction of the expected period.
You are not entitled to wages for any period during which you unlawfully refuse to work.
You are entitled to payment of your wages whenever your ship is in port but not more than once every seven days in each country.
Your wages shall be paid in cash in the local currency of the port your ship is in at the current rate of exchange unless you ask for a draft on the shipping company.
You may have part of your wages paid monthly to a specified beneficiary in Norway or deposited in a Norwegian bank. If you require other payment arrangements, you must be sure that such arrangements are agreed upon prior to your signing the contract. The arrangements should be included in the contract.
Your employer shall not deduct any amount from your wages without your written consent unless the deduction is authorized by law, or your collective bargaining agreement, to compensate for damages caused by your gross negligence which you have admitted to in writing or which has been established in court.
Deductions are also permitted if authorized by law, a collective bargaining agreement, or the seafarer's consent. Many collective bargaining agreements have rules about deductions. You should read these rules carefully.
Under no circumstances shall deductions be made from your wages, which you need to sustain yourself and your family. (SA 2 §23)
If you unlawfully leave the service of your ship and are still owed wages, a designated authority will hold those remaining wages. This amount may be used to pay the expenses of the government or of your employer that result from your unlawful action.
If you are still owed wages after settlement of any expenses, but you do not claim those wages within three years after the termination of your employment, the money shall be forfeited for use by the Norwegian government for the benefit of seafarers or their relatives.
If the number of crew used is smaller than that originally expected by your employer, or if the number of fit members of the crew falls during the voyage, you are entitled to a portion of the wages saved by the shipowner because of the smaller crew. The shipowner may deduct from this sum any costs related to additional overtime work that beamed necessary because of the short manning. Short manning wages are divided only between the members of the department in which the shortage exists. (SA 2 §24)
You are entitled to a good and sufficient diet. If for some reason, the master considers it necessary to reduce the diet, you are entitled to suitable compensation.
You are entitled to clean quarters.
At the beginning of your employment, you must present a certificate stating that you are not suffering from any illness or physical or mental defect preventing you from performing your duties or which makes you a danger to other persons on board. A doctor authorized by the Norwegian authorities should issue your certificate.
If your employer requires that you have a medical examination, the employer will pay all costs.
If you are injured or become sick while employed on an NIS ship, you are entitled to maintenance and cure. This includes proper food and lodging either on board the ship or on shore, and proper medical attention. (SA 2 §27)
If you become sick or injured and are left behind in a foreign country, the master shall place you in the care of the local Norwegian Foreign Service station. If there is no such foreign service station in the locality, then the master must make arrangements for you to receive the best possible care. The master shall contact your next of kin at your request. If you are left abroad, the master must furnish security for any and all expenses for which your employer is responsible.
If you are not a Norwegian subject, nor a resident of Norway, and you are not a member of a corresponding health insurance scheme in your native country, you are entitled to recover your wages during the period of your illness or disability, up to a maximum of 2 months. However, if you have worked on Norwegian ships for a total of 36 months or more in the past 10 years, you are entitled to recover wages up to a maximum of 3 months. (SA 2 §28)
Any wages due to you at the time of your illness shall be deposited with the Norwegian Foreign Service station, which shall administer the funds according to your needs.
If you become disabled by disease or injury, you have the right, to the extent possible, to keep your existing job or at least be placed in other suitable service. If you are placed in a new position, the matter must be discussed with you before any decision is made. (SA 2 §27A) Your collective bargaining agreement may negate this right.
You will not be entitled to maintenance and cure benefits if you deliberately conceal an existing injury or disease at the time of your engagement, or if you deliberately conceal the disease or injury.
If you die while in the service of your employer, or while you are entitled to medical care, or while you are traveling at your employer's expense, the master of your ship must contact your next of kin to make burial arrangements. If required by the law of the place where you die, or if your next of kin consents, the master may order cremation instead of burial. In this instance, the master will arrange to have your ashes sent home.
All costs of burial, cremation, or return of your remains shall be paid by your employer if you die under the circumstances listed above.
The main rule of the Act is that a Seafarer is employed for an unspecified period, but it is common if you are a non-Nordic resident that your Employment Contract to only cover employment for a particular voyage or for a specific period of time. However, both you and your employer have the right to terminate your employment under certain circumstances as long as proper notice is given. The agreed period of notice of termination must be included in your written contract. Your collective bargaining agreement may contain terms that are different from the standard terms listed below. The following section explains the standard conditions under which employment may be terminated by notice.
The Employment Contract ends without notice at the end of the agreed period of employment or at the end of the particular voyage. (If the ship is at sea, the articles will be extended until the ship arrives at the next port of call other than ports at which the vessel merely refuels or disembarks as a result of death or injury);
You may terminate your Employment Contract and leave the service of your ship immediately after giving notice if:
- the ship is not seaworthy for the voyage;
- the crew's quarters are not in a healthy condition and the master does not fix the problem;
- you have been ill treated on board and the master fails to protect you;
- the ship loses the right to fly the Norwegian flag;
- the contract specifies a voyage and the voyage has been altered substantially;
- there is a risk that the ship will be seized by an enemy or exposed to war damage;
- a violent epidemic disease breaks out in the port to which the ship is headed;
- unless your contract is for a longer period of time, after a continuous period of six months service of the ship, at any port except a port at which the vessel calls merely for maintenance or refueling.
If you exercise your right to leave your vessel for one of the above reasons, if appropriate, you may be transferred to another of the company's ships. If you are not transferred, you are entitled to free passage home with maintenance. (See Repatriation)
The Seamen's Act 2 § 11 will allow you to leave the service of your ship if you receive word that your parent, spouse, or child has died or is seriously ill. A Collective Bargaining Agreement may contain terms that differ from the Act.
If you are employed for a specific voyage and leave the ship's service before the voyage begins for one of the reasons stated above, you are entitled to free passage with maintenance to the place of your residence. If the voyage has already begun, you are entitled to free passage with maintenance to the port of departure agreed upon in your contract.
The master may dismiss you on grounds of dereliction of duty if:
- you are incompetent for the job for which you were hired;
- you fail, without reason, to come on board at the right time and the ship must leave or another person must be taken on to take your place;
- you are guilty of "gross violation of your duties" including repeated disobedience, violent behavior, ill-treatment of other persons on board, repeated intoxication, or abuse of narcotics;
- you are guilty of theft or any other serious felony;
- you conceal another person on board, exposing the ship to serious inconvenience;
- you conceal dutiable or prohibited goods on board the ship;
- you bring narcotics or other dangerous toxic substances on board; or
- you bring a dispute regarding the employment relationship to a foreign court. (SA 5 §50)
- If you are dismissed for one of the reasons stated above, you will only be entitled to wages for the period during which you served.
Prior to dismissal, a hearing shall be held before a committee on board. You are entitled to a certified transcript of the meeting protocol.
You must be given notice of your dismissal according to the following guidelines:
- notice must be given in writing;
- if you request it, your employer must include the reasons for your dismissal in the written notice;
- if you are dismissed from service on board a ship that consists of at least five crew members, before the decision of dismissal is taken, you have the right to a hearing before a panel consisting of the master and two members of the crew appointed by the master. You are entitled to a written record of this hearing;
It is possible that your collective agreement has altered requirements for notice of termination.
A decision on the dismissal must be made within 14 days after the circumstances of the case become known.
Notice may be given when duly grounded in factors relating to the shipping company or to the seaman himself. Factor relating to the seaman may be the manner in which the he carries out his work. Factors relating to the shipping company may be rationalization or sales and lay ups of ships.
- the period of notice may be written into your contract;
- the period must not be longer for your employer than for you;
- if no period of notice is written into the contract, a period of one (1) month shall apply;
- notice must be given in writing;
- if you request it, your employer must include the reasons for your dismissal in the written notice;
- you have the right to continue working during the period of notice;
- if it is not possible to find a replacement for you, or if your ship is headed for a port from which passage and maintenance will be considerably cheaper, you may be required to continue to work for up to one month beyond the first day on which you could have left the ship;
- if you are denied entry for any reason at your port of departure, you shall remain in the service of the ship until it reaches a port at which you can depart.
The shipping company is obliged to furnish a guarantee for any employee ensuring that you or yours survivors will receive compensation in the event of occupational injury leading to disability or death.
The guarantee shall cover compensation in the event of disability resulting from occupational injury.
If no guarantee has been furnished, the shipping company will be liable for the payments to be made to the employee or his survivors.
The compensation may be paid in the form of a lump sum. The size of the sum shall be agreed upon in the wage agreement between the employer and the employees' organization in Norway or in the employee's country of domicile.
For every ship registered in the Norwegian International Ship Register the shipping company shall furnish a guarantee for your remuneration as a result of the institution of bankruptcy/liquidation proceedings against the company.
Such guarantees shall cover your claims to outstanding remuneration for your work pursuant to statute or agreement with the employer in the event of his bankruptcy or liquidation. Remuneration includes such as holiday and leisure time remuneration, claims for the reimbursement of the expenses of a passage home, claims against the employer for a pension or any other loss of remuneration for service on board.
The obligation to pay remuneration is limited to remuneration for eight weeks or for a number of shorter periods amounting to a total of eight weeks.
Disputes between the master and any of the crew regarding wages, duties or conditions of employment should be referred first to your ship's grievance procedure. Failing an acceptable result, you may next appeal to a Norwegian foreign station for resolution. Decisions of the Norwegian Foreign Service station are binding on the parties, but may be appealed within six months to a Norwegian court. (SA 4 § 50) Collective bargaining agreements or individual contracts may provide for dispute resolution in another country. (NIS § 6)
Unless you have agreed otherwise, you are entitled to free passage home with maintenance if you complete your contract or if your employer dismisses you without cause. This applies if you were hired for either a specific period of time, or for a specific voyage.
Free passage and maintenance includes food and lodging en route as well as during waiting periods prior to and during the journey.
If you are a Norwegian national or have a residence in Norway, you are entitled to free passage home with maintenance after six months' service on the same ship or with the same employer.
Where to Get Help
If you have a problem on a Norwegian International Registry ship, contact any of the following:
Any Norwegian Foreign Service Station
Your Employer, if appropriate
Any union to which you belong
Norwegian Maritime Directorate
P.O. Box 8123 Dep
Telephone: (47) 22 45 4500
Fax: (47) 22 45 47 50
Norwegian Seafarers' Union
Grev Wedels plass 7
Telephone: (47) 22 82 58 00
TeleFax: (47) 22 33 66 18
Finally, if you have a question about your rights, or any problem, you may contact: