UK Seafarer’s Wages Bill Advances

July 10, 2022 /

The UK Government is moving forward with its new legislation that would require parts of the shipping industry to pay seafarers at levels equivalent to the UK National Minimum Wage, but Unions and Ports have objected.

Why the new legislation?

Seen as a political response to P&O Ferries mass firing of crews in March 2022 and replacing them with contract workers, the shipping industry is critical of parts of the Seafarer’s Wages Bill that was announced in May during the Queen’s Speech. The draft bill focuses on vessels and services calling at UK ports at least every 72 hours on average, or more than 120 times per year.

After the public condemnation over the mass firing of P&O staff with no notice, the bill as written allows ports to deny access to services to ships which regularly call at UK ports and do not pay the equivalent UK minimum wage for time spent in UK waters.

Union and Port criticism

While the draft bill aims to close loop holes that allowed seafarers who worked on ships that regularly server UK ports to be paid below minimum wage, the legislation is seen as too narrow as to not cover the broader commercial shipping industry, but it’s unclear if it would cover commercial fishing boats that operate from the UK.

Union leaders have also pointed out that ferry operators could “port hop” to avoid the new regulations. One union, Nautilus International, is calling for changes to the bill, highlighting its proposed “Fair Ferries Strategy” which expands collective bargaining, adds penalties for fire and rehire practices and the ability to sanction operators.

Another issue could be from how the Seafarer’s Wages Bill would be enforced if it passes. In its current form, oversight for compliance would be divided up between the ports, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the Department for Transport.

The British Ports Association has been heavily critical of the proposed legislation, pointing out that enforcement is not a core component of their operation and that Government agencies should have the sole authority for enforcement. Some ferry operators are also port authorities, so the bill would effectively be putting them in the position to effectively mark their own homework.

How it effects our customers

It’s unclear how the legislation would effect operations in and out of the UK, but Supreme Freight will continue to work closely with seafarers, ports and shipping companies. Get in touch with us via our contact form or give us a call on +44 (0)23 8033 7778 if you have any questions.