Regulation of employers and seamen

Certificates of competence are required for many of the principal grades of seaman.  Acquiring the certificate is subject to examination or other requirements. Certificates are required for the master first mate, second mate, first and second class engineer.  The certificate of competence must be maintained and may be revoked for good cause

There are obligations on the masters of ships to ensure that the relevant certificates of competence are produced, in certain circumstances.  Proof must be given to the customs authorities that the certificates of competence are in place and have been validated. There are provisions for international recognition of certificates of competency for seamen.

There are provisions in the legislation for apprentice seamen.  Persons who supplies seamen or apprentices for merchant ships must themselves be licensed by the Department. A seaman may be designated an able bodied seaman if he has served sufficient periods in service at sea.

A form of agreement must be entered by the master of a ship with every seaman in accordance with the approved format.  The agreement is to provide details of the voyage, engagement, maximum period, number and description of the crew, time in which the seamen is to be aboard and serve,  wages, provisions as to conduct on-board.

Agreements may be for a voyage or for a number of voyages.  The master is to endorse the completion of the engagement on the agreement. There are reduced requirements in respect of smaller vessels and those involved in home trade.

The agreement is to be signed by each seamen and is to be explained so that the superintendent ascertains that the seamen understands the same.  A copy of the agreement must be posted up on a part of the ship accessible for the crew.

There are provisions of discharge of seamen.  Reports regarding conduct, character and qualifications are to be completed.

There are special provisions in relation to payments and, entitlement to and recovery of seamen’s wages.  There are special provisions regarding contributions to superannuation funds for seamen.

There are provisions where a seaman dies in the course of a voyage.  They deal with a range of matters including disposition of personal property and effects and  accounting for such assets and effects.

There are provisions regarding leaving and discharge of a seaman in a foreign port.  It is impermissible to force seaman on shore or leave them behind.  Authorisations are required to discharge seamen at a place outside the State. Medical expenses of injured and sick seamen must not paid for from wages.

There are obligations regarding provisions on-board merchant ships and in relation to the health, safety and accommodation of seaman.  There must be prescribed medicinal stores and facilities.  Inspections may be made to vouch compliance.

Any ship with more than 100 persons on-board must have a duly qualified medical practitioner if going on certain lengths of voyage.  There are prescribed minimum accommodation requirements for seamen.  There are various mechanisms by which seamen may complain of breaches of the legislation.

Seamen are privileged from certain impositions and enforcements.  Certain debts may not be recovered till the end of a voyage.

There are provisions in relation to discipline on-board ships.  If a seamen or apprentices commit offence as they are liable to be similarly punished. They are guilty of an offence if they neglect or deserted their ship, put out reasonable cause.  If a seamen or apprentice deserts the ship the master may arrest him if necessary, obtaining assistance of police.

There may be provisions in the agreement with crew for a fine for misconduct.  There are provisions for registrations of fines in a logbook and deduction of the fines.  It is an offence to entice a seaman to desert or to harbour a deserter.  It is an offence to stow away on a ship without the consent of the owner.

An official log must be kept of the ship in which details and entries are made in relation to a range of matters affecting a seamen on-board.  The logbook must be delivered to the superintendent after each voyage.

A mercantile marine office is to be maintained at each port and the Department is to have control of it.  The business of the mercantile marine office may be conducted at the customs office.

The mercantile marine office is to keep a register of ship crew, superintendent and facilitate the engagement and discharge of seamen, facilitate the making of apprenticeships in the sea service, provide means of securing the presence on-board at proper times of seamen and such other functions as may be committed to them.

Registers of the crew must be kept by the master of the ship.  The authorities may require production of the certain documents and transmit information centrally.

There are more limited provisions in respect of fishing boats and pleasure yachts.  Provisions relating to wages, health and accommodation, ability to make complaints, protection from impositions and discipline apply.  Finishing boats employed exclusively  in the coastal areas are subject to the provisions regarding apprenticeships, compulsory agreements with crew, certificates of competency and certificates of discharge, production of ship’s papers and certain disciplinary offences.

There are varying provisions applying to different categories of fishing boats and trawlers.  There are provisions in respect of apprenticeships, engagement, terms of engagement and discipline.

The Merchant Shipping International Labour Convention restricts the employment of certain young persons on ships.  Certain positions may not be undertaken by persons under 18 years of age.

Young persons may only be employed provided a qualified medical practitioner certifies that the person is fit to be employed in the capacity concerned.  The certificates must be renewed annually. The young person is a person under 18 years of age

The Department may make regulations for promoting the welfare of seamen in Irish ships and ports within the state or in maintaining on Irish ships, suitable conditions of employment including regulations ancillary to the same. There are powers to implement various international conventions on conditions for seamen.

The Merchant Shipping (Certification of Seamen) Act, 1979 permits the Minister to prescribe standards of competence to be attained by personnel of ships,conduct of examinations, for certificates of competence.

Regulations may specify the required numbers and categories of personnel for ship.  It is an offence for set to sea without  prescribed personnel where required. It is an offence for a person to go to sea without the requisite certificate of competency where this is required.  The certificate must be produced on request by an officer of the Department.

The Department may hold an enquiry into the fitness of a person to holds the certificate of competency.  Where the person is unfit to discharge duties due to incompetence, has been seriously negligent or has failed to comply with obligations, an inquiry may be heard.  The certificate may be suspended pending outcome of the enquiry.  Regulations may be made regarding the conduct of the enquiry.

A person in respect of whom an inquiry has been held may appeal to the High Court against any suspension or cancellation of a certificate. The certificate of competency of a master of a ship may be suspended at terms or on certain convictions.

There are restrictions on dispositions by seamen of their wages.

More modern legislation has provided detailed requirements in respect of crew accommodation on ship. It prescribes the minimum provisions by way of food required for seamen.


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