Rights Pamphlet - Malta

Jun 1, 2004
Seafarers' Rights on Malta Flag 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 Maltese flag ship, you have certain rights that are guaranteed by maritime laws and regulations of the Government of Malta.

This booklet was written to inform you of some of your rights and to help you find assistance if your rights have been violated. This booklet cites primarily on the Maltese Merchant Shipping Act of 1973, referred to as “M.S.A.” and each provision is followed by the section 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 the maritime laws of Malta.

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

We encourage questions, comments, and suggestions from readers of this booklet. Comments and contributions regarding the text are welcome so that corrections and improvements might be incorporated into future editions.


On ships that fly the Maltese flag (except those that solely navigate the coast of Malta) the Master must make an Agreement with every seafarer. (M.S.A. Sec. 113)

The Master is also obligated to post a copy of the Agreement in some part of the

ship which is accessible to the crew. (M.S.A. Sec.117)

It is the Master's obligation to insure that each seafarer understands all the stipulations of the Agreement before signing it. (M.S.A. Sec. 115)

Every Agreement, dated at the time of the first signature, which must be the Master’s, must contain the following:

The place where the agreement is made, the surname and other names of the seaman, his birthplace, age or date of birth, and the following particulars:

  • The name of the ship on board which the seaman undertakes to serve;
  • Either the nature and, as far as practicable, the duration of the intended voyage, or the maximum period of the voyage (which is not to be greater than twelve months) and the places or parts of the world, if any, to which the voyage or engagement is not to extend;
  • The number and description of the crew; and the date and place where each seaman is to be on board or begin work, if possible.
  • The capacity in which each seaman is to serve; and the amount of wages to be received;
  • The agreed leave; and any regulations as to conduct, fines, and punishment as may be approved by the Minister and the parties agree to adopt; as well as any regulations as to provisions provided;
  • A list of persons under 18 years old and dates of their birth. (M.S.A. Sec. 114)



An Agreement can be made for either a single voyage or more.

Agreements can also be made either for service on a particular ship or for service on two

or more ships belonging to the same owner. In this case, the nature of your service must be specified in the Agreement. (M.S.A. Sec. 115)

The Agreement between Master and crew ends by:

  • Mutual consent of the parties;
  • Death of the seaman;
  • Loss or total unseaworthiness of the ship;
  • Sale of the ship;
  • Expiration of time. (M.S.A. Sec. 115)



You have a right to be paid the wages specified in the Agreement. All wages due to you must be paid before or at the time your employment is terminated. (M.S.A. Sec. 131)

Your right to wages begins when you start work on the ship or at the time specified in the Agreement, whichever happens first. (M.S.A. Sec. 138)

Your right to wages does not depend on the ship's earnings. (M.S.A. Sec. 140)

If you are discharged through no fault of your own before the voyage begins or before you have earned one month's wages, you have the right to receive wages for your service on the vessel plus up to one month's wages. (M.S.A. Sec. 145)


You have the right to receive a full account of your wages, including any deduction made from your wages, at the time of payment. (M.S.A. Sec.133(1))

No deduction may be made that is not listed on the ship's account book. (M.S.A. Sec. 135)

When signing off, you must sign a release. The release should include all existing claims or demands that you have against the owner or Master. (M.S.A. Sec. 134)


As a seafarer on a Maltese flag ship you have the right to sufficient provisions of decent

food and water. The Master of the ship is required to furnish provisions to every member of the crew in accordance with Maltese law. (M.S.A. Sec. 149)

If the allotted provisions less than that prescribed supply or of bad quality, you have the right to receive compensation in the form of additional wages. If the deficiency occurred because the provisions could not be procured or supplied in proper quantities but equivalent substitutes were supplied instead, this circumstance will be taken into consideration and the compensation reduced or denied accordingly. (M.S.A. Sec. 150A)


Every Maltese flag ship must have on board a supply of medicines and instructions for their use, as prescribed by law. (M.S.A. Sec. 152)

If you are injured or become sick, the entire cost of treatment, including doctors, medicine, surgery and hospital bills, will be paid by the owner of the ship and will not be deducted from your wages. The Master has the same rights. (M.S.A. Sec. 158)

If you are left behind because you are unable to continue working on the ship due to illness, you must be paid the amount of wages that you are owed up to that time. (M.S.A. Sec. 142)


If you are terminated at the end of your Agreement, or if you are terminated without your consent before your agreement ends, and you are outside of Malta, you have the right to be repatriated at the owner's expense to Malta, or "to a proper return port". Repatriation includes travel costs and expenses. (M.S.A. Sec. 130)

If you are shipwrecked, abandoned, or left behind, and the owner fails to repatriate you, the Government of Malta will take ultimate responsibility for your maintenance and repatriation. (M.S.A. Sec. 130)


You, or any other seafarer on a Maltese flag ship, have the right to make a complaint about the Master or any of the crew to the shipping Master, to an appropriate inspector, or to a Maltese consular officer.

The Master of the ship is required under law to allow you the complainant, to go ashore and file the complaint with one of the above mentioned officials. If the ship is at sea at the time, then the Master must allow you to go ashore and file your complaint at the next scheduled port of call. (M.S.A. Sec. 155)


The above list is not exhaustive. There may be other issues on board ship that can be dealt with which are not directly covered by the laws and regulations summarized here.


Whenever you have a problem on a Malta flag ship, you may contact your union or any of the following:

Malta Maritime Authority

Merchant Shipping Directorate
Maritime House
Lascaris Wharf
Valletta VLT01, Malta
Telephone: 356 212 50360
Fax: 356 212 41460
Tlx: 1362 REGSHP MW
Email: [email protected]

Malta Maritime Authority
Corporate Office
Marina Pinto
VLT 01 Valetta, Malta
Telephone: 356 212 22203
Fax: 356 212 50365
Email: [email protected]

Finally, if you have a question about your rights, or any problem, you may contact the:

Center for Seafarers’ Rights
The Seamen's Church Institute
Telephone #: +1 212-349-9090
Fax #: +1 212-349-8342

email: [email protected]

Website: http://www.seamenschurch.org