Social security coverage for seafarers is rather a matter of cooperation

25 Mar 2022

Better social security coverage for seafarers residing in EU countries is above all a matter of cooperation between national authorities.

In a world of competing flag States and short‐term employment, enjoying the comprehensive benefits provided by a social security system can be a difficult task for many seafarers.

Many countries do not ensure that all seafarers ordinarily resident in their territory benefit from the social security protection in the applicable branches. In particular, some European countries do not guarantee the equality of treatment between seafarers and shore-workers regarding social security protection in the case of seafarers serving on board foreign ships (other than the European Union (EU).

Social security is even more important in times of crisis. The pandemic should play a defining role in further developing and strengthening social security for seafarers.

The European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) commissioned the World Maritime University (WMU) to assess whether national laws and regulations in 10 European Union (EU) countries (Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, and Romania), one European Economic Area (EEA) country (Norway) and the United Kingdom (UK), provide for social security coverage to seafarers residing in EU/EEA Member States, Switzerland (CH) or the UK.

Communication, cooperation and coordination among countries remain a priority in social security matters, points out the ETF – WMU joint report on ‘Social security rights of the European resident seafarers. Based on the outcomes of this report, some key areas of interventions are suggested to fill up the existing gaps in the current legislation and regulations and establish better ways seafarers can benefit from comprehensive social security:

At EU/EEA/CH institutional level:

  • The approach regarding the European based seafarers’ social security should be treated as an EU matter;
  • The administrative cooperation among EU/EEA/CH/UK must be further strengthened.

At a national level:

  • Education and information available on social security systems should be enhanced;
  • The cases of seafarers residing in their territory not covered by regulation 883/2004 should be addressed;
  • Include, and promote the inclusion of social security protection within the particulars of sea
  • The compliance and enforcement of national social security provisions must be further strengthened.

Due to the global nature of shipping, the challenge remains to ensure a fully comprehensive system of social security for the seafaring profession. Yet, as suggested by the report mentioned above, it is most likely a matter of good-will at the level of national authorities and cooperation between the different administrations.

ETF will make sure these authorities will be reminded again and again of the social security rights of the seafarers residing in EU countries.