30th December 2020

Author: Martina Farrugia, Associate

On the 11th December 2020 the Merchant Shipping Directorate issued Merchant Shipping Notice 166 entitled ‘Extension of Sea Service Beyond the Seafarer Employment Agreement Period’. Further to Merchant Shipping Notice 158, it set out the circumstances in which a seafarer’s employment agreement (SEA) may be extended, in light of COVID-19.

The Notice sets out the general rule stating that seafarers onboard Malta registered ships are to be repatriated upon the end of the validity of the SEA. In circumstances where this is not possible, the SEA may be extended to a maximum total of 11 months in line with the MLC provisions and under the same terms and conditions as the original agreement, and this provided that there is a signed agreement between the shipowner and the seafarer.

Prior to the expiry of the 11 months, shipowners may apply for a further extension beyond the 11 months, however must provide detailed reasons and justifications, backed up by documentary evidence as to why they are unable to repatriate. They must also provide a definite plan to repatriate the crew at the very first opportunity and in no case later than 14 months from the original agreement.

The Notice requires that evidence of the reasons/justification, repatriation plan, extended SEAs and acceptance by the administration be kept available onboard for verification and inspection purposes.

The full notice can be accessed here.

©Fenech & Fenech Advocates 2020

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