To align with international maritime norms and ensure seafarers’ rights, the Cayman Islands Parliament have ratified a significant legislative update – the Merchant Shipping Act 2024. The legislation, effective from 11th March 2024, is set to enhance contractual clarity and protections for professionals working aboard vessels that fly the Cayman Islands flag. 

What’s new?

Under this overhaul, all seafarers employed on Cayman-flagged vessels, encompassing both commercial ships and private yachts, are mandated to operate under written employment contracts. These agreements, as outlined by the Maritime Authority of the Cayman Islands, must encompass essential provisions to safeguard the interests of seafarers and ensure adherence to international standards.

On smaller yachts, it is common for crew members to have informal employment contracts. This can make deciding on work hours, pay timing and various administrative aspects of the job difficult. With a written contract, employees can be certain that they will receive balanced treatment and will be in a secure work environment. 

With this comprehensive overhaul, all seafarers employed on Cayman-flagged vessels, encompassing commercial ships and private yachts, must operate under employment contracts. These agreements, as outlined by the Maritime Authority of the Cayman Islands, must encompass essential provisions to safeguard the interests of seafarers and ensure adherence to international standards.

Crucially, the updated Act delineates a minimum set of provisions that must be included in these employment agreements, ensuring a standardised framework across the maritime sector. Among these provisions are stipulations regarding wages, including the method of payment and monthly wage accounts, along with provisions for permissible wage deductions following the Merchant Shipping Act 2024.

Moreover, the contracts must delineate entitlements concerning repatriation and medical expenses, as well as provisions for leave and notice periods. The agreement should also specify the agreed-upon place for the seafarer’s return and the governing law applicable to the contract, providing clarity and legal certainty for all parties involved.

Importantly, the Guidance Note issued by the Maritime Authority underscores that while the requirement for written employment agreements does not inherently augment seafarers’ rights, it ensures that existing entitlements are explicitly outlined within the contract. Additionally, the Act precludes the renunciation of any rights or obligations conferred by the Merchant Shipping Act through employment agreements, reinforcing the non-negotiable nature of certain protections afforded to seafarers.

Voyonic Group can play an integral role in helping maritime businesses and seafarers comply with the updated Merchant Shipping Act 2024, particularly by offering expert advice on employment contracts and international regulations. 

Find out more here – https://voyonic.com/vessel-registration