Expired employment agreements

  • Published: 03/07/2020

Due to the current travel restrictions and reduced flight schedules, many shipping companies are facing great difficulty in carrying out crew changes. A challenge that may arise is that the period of service exceeds the service period specified in the employment agreement.

Edda Freya, Østensjø rederi
PHOTO: Endre Dommersnes, fotokonkurransen for sjøfolk 2019.

All crew members on board shall hold a valid contract of employment pursuant to the Ship Labour Act section 3-1 first paragraph. The validity of employment contracts is not automatically extended in the same way as it is for certain certificates and medical certificates, which were granted extended validity by the Norwegian Maritime Authority (NMA), cf. letter dated 7 February 2020.

If employment contracts expire because crew changes cannot be effected, new employment contracts must be entered into with the seafarers concerned. This is to make sure that the seafarers are willing to remain on board for a longer period.

The general rule for work on board Norwegian ships is, pursuant to the Ship Labour Act section 3-4 first paragraph, that the employee shall be appointed permanently. In certain cases, temporary employment may nevertheless be agreed upon.

An employee may be temporarily employed for a specified period of time, for a specified journey or for work of temporary duration, when warranted by the nature of the work, cf. section 3-4 first paragraph (a). Temporary employment may, pursuant to the first paragraph (b), be agreed upon for work replacing another person or persons.

Therefore, according to (a) and (b), a new contract of employment may be agreed upon that will be in force for a limited period of time, for a journey to a specific port or until the crew members are replaced by others.

The provision of Ship Labour Act section 3-4 may, however, be deviated from in a collective bargaining agreement for NIS ships, cf. section 8 of the NIS Act (Act relating to a Norwegian International Ship Register).

The NMA has no record of the extent to which this has been done. Moreover, the NMA will not interpret collective bargaining agreements; this is only of concern to the parties to the agreement. Therefore, if there is any doubt as to how deal with any matter within the scope of the current collective bargaining agreement, the individual company must contact one of the parties to the collective bargaining agreement for assessment and interpretation.

Please note that in most cases, the lack of a valid employment contract for one or more crew members will lead to detention of the ship.

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