Rights Pamphlet - Denmark

Jun 1, 2004
Seafarers’ Rights on Danish International Registry (DIS) Ships

The Seamen's Church Institute
Telephone: +1 212-349-9090 Fax: +1 212-349-8342
E-mail: [email protected]

As a seafarer on a Danish flagship, you have certain rights that are guaranteed by the maritime laws and regulations of the Government of Denmark. In addition, you have certain duties and obligations when working on board a Danish International Registry ("DIS") vessel.

This booklet has been written to inform you of your rights and to help you find help if your rights have been violated. This booklet is based on the Danish Merchant Shipping (Masters' and Seamen's) Consolidation Act No. 420 of June 13, 1973, as amended latest by Act No. 1088 of December 29, 1999 (referred to in this booklet by the letters "MSCA"). Please be advised that 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 guide based on the maritime laws of Denmark.

The Center for Seafarers' Rights is ready to assist all seafarers who believe that they have been denied their rights to fair and decent working conditions.

We encourage any questions, comments, and suggestions from the readers of this booklet. We especially welcome your comments and contributions to the text so that corrections and improvements may be incorporated into future editions.


The master of a ship is required by law to keep on board for the crew a copy of the Merchant Shipping (Masters' and Seamen's) Consolidation Act, along with a copy of any collective bargaining agreement, which the crewmembers may have entered into. (MSCA Sec. 74(1 and 2))

Furthermore, the Minister for Business and Industry may lay down rules stipulating the employer's duty to conclude a written agreement with the employee, among them setting out the terms of engagement and the employer's duty to inform the employee of the conditions of the agreement and of the working conditions. The form and contents of the agreement shall be stipulated by the Minister in consultation with the Ships Inspection Council. (MSCA Sec. 3(1))

Every such agreement must state:

1.    The identity of the shipowner and the seafarer;
2.    The working place given as the name of the ship
3.    The position for which the seafarer has been employed
4.    The date when the seafarer is to commence his service
5.    The date when the employment begins
6.    The size of the agreed pay
7.    What has been agreed as to the place of discharge or terms of notice, and if the employment is temporary, it must be stated in writing
8.    Information about the seaman's rights in connection with holidays, holiday allowance or pay during holidays
9.    The standard daily or weekly working hours
10.     A specification of the collective agreement that regulates the work relationship. If parties out of the shipping company have concluded the collective agreement, the identity of these parties must be given

When the employment is terminated, the date of discharge/dismissal and the date when the service is to terminate as well as the reason for termination must be given in writing. See "The Seaman's Rights and Duties," Published by the Danish Maritime Authority


Unless you have agreed otherwise, you or the shipowner may terminate your agreement by giving the other 7 days' notice. (MSCA Sec. 5)

If your home is in Denmark, the agreement will terminate in a Danish port of call. If your home is in Greenland or the Faroe Islands, your agreement will terminate in Greenland or the Faroe Islands. (MSCA Sec. 6(1))

If your home is somewhere other than in Denmark, Greenland, or the Faroe Islands, your agreement may be terminated in any port of call. However, your agreement may not be terminated in a port where your ship has stopped solely for bunkering, landing sick or injured people, or any other reason to safeguard the ship, the cargo or those on board the vessel. (MSCA Sec. 6(2))

You yourself may terminate your agreement in any port of call after giving one month's notice, if:

1. You have served aboard the same ship or for the same shipowner for 6 or more months; or
2. You have served on board a Danish‑flagged vessel for at least 12 months, and you have no other agreement to continue. (MSCA Sec. 7(1))

In any event, even if the agreed term of your contract ends while you are still at sea, your agreement remains in effect until you reach the proper port of discharge. (MSCA Sec. 6(3))


You have a duty to obey the orders given to you in your service and to show clearly that you have understood them. You must also observe the rules for maintaining order aboard the ship. (MSCA Sec. 53(1))

If you are somehow prevented from coming on board on time, you must notify the master without delay. (MSCA Sec. 53(2))

You must make up for any damage which you cause by your neglect or because you were not carrying out your duties properly. (MSCA Sec. 53(3))


The master may discharge you if you are unfit to perform your duties for a considerable time by reason of illness or injury, or if you suffer from an illness which involves danger to those on board. (MSCA Sec. 16)

The master may also dismiss you if:

1.    You are found incompetent to perform your duties
2.    You fail to join the ship in due time and the ship is to depart or a substitute must be engaged in your place
3.    You are guilty of gross breach of duty such as repeated disobedience, violent behavior towards others on board, or repeated drunkenness
4.    You are guilty of theft or any other serious crime
5.    You lay the ship open to serious difficulties by concealing persons on board
6.    You conceal goods on board which are liable to customs duty or the exportation of which from the port of departure or the importation to the port of destination is prohibited
7.    You lay a dispute about employment before a foreign authority (MSCA Sec. 17(1))

During the service, you shall be entitled to wages even though you are unfit to perform your duties by reason of illness or injury. (MSCA Sec. 29(1))

If you are suffering from illness or injury at the time of termination, your wages shall continue to run as long as you are incapacitated, up to 2 months. If no definite indications of illness or injury have been shown to exist, you shall not be entitled to wages for more days that you have served on board. (MSCA Sec. 29(2))

During the course of service, you have the right to all expenses incidental to the care and attendance, unless you fraudulently suppressed the illness or injury at the time of your engagement; unless you contract an injury or illness through your own willful actor gross negligence; or unless you are insured in a country other than Denmark, or if you have private insurance. In these circumstances, the shipowner does not have to pay for your care. (MSCA Sec. 30 (4-6))

If you suffer from illness or injury at the time of termination, you are entitled to care and attendance by the shipowner for up to 12 weeks, not exceeding, however, 2 weeks after the arrival in the country where you are domiciled. (MSCA Sec. 30 (1-3))

Observe that you cannot receive any of this assistance if you lied about being healthy (or deliberately concealed your pregnancy) when you were hired, or if your injury was caused by a deliberate careless act of your own. (MSCA Secs. 29(3)-(4), 30(4))

If you are found to be incompetent, you are only entitled to those wages that you have already earned. If it appears that you failed to join your ship through no fault of your own, or if you are not able to perform your duties because of illness or injury, you have a right to your earned wages for as long as you are unable to work, but only up to a maximum of 2 months. (MSCA Sec. 17(3))

If you are to be dismissed for the reasons numbered 3-7 above, the master must inform you of his intention to do so as soon as he can. He must not wait to inform you for more than 7 days after learning of the reason for your dismissal, unless special reasons require that this time limit be extended. (MSCA Sec. 17(2))

You yourself have the right to demand discharge if:

1.    You are pregnant and discharge is necessary for your health, the child's health, or the safety of the child-birth. (MSCA Sec. 9)
2.    You are informed, after your engagement, that in another ship you can get a position of higher grade than the one you hold, or one of considerable importance to you, or it you are informed of any other circumstances with make it essential for obtaining a discharge.  If the ship would then be unseaworthy, in such circumstances, you can only demand discharge provided a competent substitute can be procured. (MSCA Sec. 10(1))
3.    The ship is unseaworthy or the crew accommodation is unhealthy and the master neglects to remedy the defects; the master neglects to have the ship surveyed in contravention of the law; or you have been ill-treated on board the ship and the master, although aware of the ill-treatment, has failed to provide protection. (MSCA Sec. 11(1))
4.    An epidemic disease is prevailing at the port of call where your ship is going. (MSCA Sec. 12(1))
5.    Your engagement is materially altered. (MSCA Sec. 13(1))
6.    Your ship loses the right to fly the Danish flag; (MSCA Sec. 14(1))
7.    Your ship is sold and you do not with to work for the new shipowner. (MSCA Sec. 14(2))
8.    The ship is scheduled to enter an area of war danger. (MSCA Sec. 18a(1))

Even though you have obtained discharge, you may still be required to work on board to help with necessary work when the ship enters a port. However, you cannot be required to work for more than 48 hours after the arrival at the port. (MSCA Sec. 15(1))


Your wages start on the earliest of the following days:

  • The day you begin service aboard the ship;
  • The day you surrender your passport or discharge book; or
  • The day you begin traveling to meet the ship. (MSCA Sec. 21(1))

For the purpose of calculating your wages for any periods under a month, your daily wage is one thirtieth of your monthly wages. If the voyage ends up being shorter than was expected at the time you were hired, you have the right to receive the full amount of the wages agreed upon. If, however, the voyage ends up being longer than expected, you have the right to additional daily wages beyond the expected duration (unless you had originally agreed otherwise). (MSCA Sec. 22(1), (3))

You have the right to demand payment once every 7 days while you are in port in the same country. (MSCA Sec. 24(1))

You have the right to a monthly account of your earned wages and what you have been paid. (MSCA Sec. 26)

Generally, if you are discharged without any fault of your own and not for medical reasons, you have a right to the wages you have earned plus two months' wages as compensation. (MSCA Sec. 18(1))

If your ship is lost, the seaman's agreement will terminate unless otherwise provided. You will, however, in return for wages and maintenance, participate in the salvage and remain on the spot to give evidence to a maritime court. (MSCA Sec. 19 (1))

If your agreement is terminated by loss of the ship, you are entitled to necessary clothes and free passage with maintenance to your place of domicile, at the expense of the shipowner. (MSCA Sec. 19 (2))

During the passage home, you are entitled to wages. You are also entitled to wages during the period you are unemployed by reason of the loss of the ship, but not for more than 2 months. (MSCA Sec. 19(3))

If you are hired for a definite voyage and that voyage is significantly changed, you may request to be discharged. Once you have been so discharged, you have the right to one month's wages after termination. You are also entitled to free passage with maintenance to the place of engagement if you are discharged before the voyage is commenced and otherwise to the agreed place of discharge. (MSCA Sec. 13(2))

You may request that the master send your wages account to the Danish Maritime Authority. (MSCA Sec. 64(1))


When signing on, the discharge book shall be handed over to the master to be kept until the termination of service. The discharge book shall not contain any remarks relating to the conduct of the seaman during the employment. (MSCA Sec. 64b(3))


You have the right to proper and sufficient food during a voyage. You may be compensated if your food is reduced for whatever reason. (MSCA 55 Secs. (1), (2))


Whenever more than half the crew complains about the seaworthiness of the ship for its next voyage, the master must have the ship inspected by surveyors. (MSCA Sec. 56(1)) If it appears that the complaint was made for no good reason, however, the crew must pay for the cost of having the ship surveyed. (MSCA Sec. 56(3))


Seafarers are entitled to adequate time for rest and sleep. During any 24-hour period, you should have a minimum of 10 hours rest, which may be divided into two periods, one of which shall be at least 6 hours. Your rest periods may not be more than 14 hours apart. However, this rule does not apply when you are arriving or departing at a port or when the ship's safety is at stake. (MSCA Sec. 57(1))

On Sundays and other holidays, each member of the crew shall be given an opportunity of undisturbed religious worship aboard the ship, and on such days, you cannot be forced to do work which can wait. (MSCA Secs. 57(2)-(3))


While your ship is in port, you are allowed to go ashore in your spare time. However, you may not go ashore if your presence aboard is necessary for:

  • The safety of the ship;
  • The safety of the cargo;
  • The safety of others on board;
  • Performing necessary ship's work;
  • The immediate departure or shifting of the ship.
  • (MSCA Sec. 58(1))



The master shall supervise the sanitary conditions and cleanliness on board. (MSCA Sec. 55(4))

If you are injured or become sick, you shall receive free maintenance, medical assistance, and medicine, either ashore or on board. (MSCA Sec. 27(4))

If you are left behind somewhere because of injury or illness, you shall be left in the care of the local Danish Consul. If there is no consul nearby, the master shall arrange for your care and attendance and notify the nearest Danish Consul. You may also request the master inform your next of kin. (MSCA Sec. 27(7))

You are entitled to your wages while you are sick or injured, even if your illness or injury prevents you from doing your job. (MSCA Sec. 29(1))

If your agreement terminates while you are sick, injured or pregnant, you may receive your wages for as long as you are unable to work, but only up to 2 months. If no definite indications of illness or injury have been shown to exist, you shall not be entitled to more wages than for the days you have served on board. If you suffer from a venereal disease, the Treasury will defray your wages. (MSCA Secs. 29(2), (4))

If you are discharged because of illness or injury, you have the right to free passage and maintenance to your home. (MSCA Sec. 30(3))


If you die while in the service of the vessel, the master must inform your nearest relative and arrange for your burial or cremation. If you are cremated, the master is responsible for ensuring that your ashes are sent to your home. If your death occurs aboard the ship, the master must also inform the nearest Danish Consul. (MSCA Sec. 32(1)) Your personal belongings will be inventoried by the master and certified by two witnesses. If your things cannot be kept on board, they will be delivered to the nearest Danish Consul. (MSCA Sec. 32(2)) The shipowner shall pay the expenses of your burial or cremation and the sending home and entombment of your remains. (MSCA Sec. 34(1))

If you die while in the service of the vessel, your wages continue up to and including the date of your death. If the date of your death cannot be determined because of (for example) the loss of the ship, then your wages continue until the time your vessel should have reached its next destination port. (MSCA Secs. 33(1), (2))

If you die while in the service of your ship, your surviving spouse and any children under the age of 18 years are entitled to one month of your wages or:

If you worked for the shipowner for 2 years, two months' wages; or

If you worked for the shipowner for 3 years, three months' wages.(MSCA Sec.33(3))


As a seafarer aboard a Danish flagged vessel, you have the right to free passage with maintenance to the port of termination stated in your contract. If your contract says that it can only terminate in a Danish port, you have the right to free passage with maintenance to a Danish port. (MSCA Sec. 18(2))

If the ship is lost, you have the right to necessary clothes and free passage with maintenance to your home. (MSCA Sec. 19(2))

If you are discharged because of war, you must pay one tenth of the expenses resulting from your passage and maintenance. The rest will be paid by the shipowner and/or the Treasury. (MSCA Sec.18b(2)) In such circumstance, if a similar engagement can be obtained on board another Danish ship at the place of discharge, Sec. 18b(2) above shall not apply. (MSCA Sec. 18b(3))

Likewise, if you are discharged because of epidemic disease, you shall pay one fourth of expenses incidental to passage and maintenance. (MSCA Sec. 12(4))

If you live in Denmark and have worked on board the same ship or for the same shipowner for at least six months, and you have not had the opportunity to obtain discharge in Denmark for the last 3 months, you are entitled to free passage and maintenance to your home. The right to free passage home shall not be affected by any opportunities you may have had during the past 3 months of obtaining discharge in the Faroe Islands or Greenland, unless you are domiciled in the Faroe Islands or Greenland. You may have to serve an additional month if that would make your repatriation easier or cheaper. (MSCA Secs. 8(1), (2))


You have the right to take part in collective bargaining. (Act on the Danish International Register of Shipping Sec. 10)


You have the right to bring items aboard the ship for your own personal use, as long as they are not so many or large as to cause inconvenience to the ship or cargo. (MSCA Sec. 59(1))

You may not bring the following aboard, but if you do, you may have to pay freight for such items:

  • Goods that risk disorder or inconvenience aboard the ship;
  • Goods for sale for yourself or for any other person (except with the master's permission);
  • Goods that may damage the ship or its cargo;
  • Narcotics or dangerous drugs;
  • Weapons or ammunition (except with the master's permission.) (MSCA Secs. 59(1),(2),(3))

If the master has reason to suspect that you have brought any of the above items aboard, he may search your quarters. You have the right to be present at a search of your quarters. (MSCA Sec. 59(4))

The master may take into custody, cause to be landed, or (if necessary) destroy any goods that are unlawfully brought aboard. (MSCA Sec. 59(5))

Any personal items left on board after the termination of your work will be taken into custody at your own expense. The master shall make a list of the items, which must be certified by two witnesses. (MSCA Sec. 60(1))

If your items, because of their nature, cannot be kept, they may be sold. If you do not ask the owner to return your things within 12 months, they may be sold. (MSCA Sec. 60(2))

If your personal belongings have been lost or damaged on board the ship because of a loss of the ship, piracy, fire, or other such causes, the shipowner is liable to pay you compensation for such lost things. (MSCA Sec. 61)


You have the right to refer all disputes about your wages or the terms of your employment to a Danish Consul. The dispute must not be laid before a foreign authority. (MSCA Sec. 64(2))


You may have concerns about other issues, and situations may have arisen aboard your ship not covered by the laws summarized in this booklet.


If you have a problem on a Danish International Registry (DIS) ship, contact:

Shipping Officer Ministry for Industry
Slotsholmsgade 10212
Copenhagen DENMARK
Tel.: 45‑33‑92‑33‑50
Fax: 45‑33‑12‑37‑78

You may also contact any Danish foreign service station (consul or ambassador), or any union to which you belong.

If you have a question about your rights as a seafarer, or any problem, please contact:

The Center for Seafarers' Rights
The Seamen's Church Institute
Telephone #: +1 212‑349‑9090
Fax #: +1 212‑349‑8342
E-mail: [email protected]
Website: http://www.seamenschurch.org