The impact of Brexit on seafarers: social partners call for urgent action

Related to: Maritime Transport, Brexit, Social Dialogue
6 Dec 2018

Brexit has all kinds of implications. Seafarers holding Certificates of Competency (CoC) issued by the UK risk losing opportunities for employment.

The ETF has therefore joined forces with their social partner for maritime transport, ECSA, to urge the European Commission and EU member states to agree a pragmatic solution with the UK Government that will enable the continued employment of holders of UK CoCs on ships registered in EEA Member States.

Below you can find the content of a letter that was sent to the EU Ministers responsible for Maritime Transport, the EU Commissioner responsible for Transport, Ms Violeta Bulc , the EU Commissioner responsible for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, Ms Marianne Thyssen and the EU’s Chief Brexit Negotiator Mr Michel Barnier.


Brussels, 6 December 2018

Subject: Brexit – Implications for holders of Certificates of Competency issued in the UK

We the European Social Partners for the maritime sector, the European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA) and the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF), wish to draw the attention of the European Commission and the Member States to the possible preclusion of seafarers who hold Certificates of Competency (CoCs) issued in the UK in accordance with the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) following the UK’s imminent departure from the EU.

We urge the European Commission and the Member States to agree a pragmatic solution with the UK Government that will enable the continued employment of holders of UK CoCs on ships registered in EEA Member States.

We consider it essential that the agreement on the future relationship between the EU and UK includes an arrangement providing that CoCs issued by the UK continue to be accepted for service on EEA-registered ships and vice versa.  Hence the UK would become a recognised third country under Directive 2008/106/EC and the UK would agree to accept EEA CoCs on its ships. Both of our organisations would support this outcome as it would benefit European shipowners and CoC holders in the UK and elsewhere in the EU.

If no such provision is included in any agreement on the future relationship, or in the case of a no deal scenario, the recognition of UK CoCs under Directive 2008/106 would cease to apply. Whilst existing endorsements issued by Member States would continue to be valid until their expiry dates, no new endorsements of UK CoCs could be issued. Instead, the procedure under Article 19 of Directive 2008/106 would apply and a Member State would need to make a request to the European Commission for recognition of the UK as a third country. This process may take time and until a solution is found, it will be of considerable detriment to the holders of CoCs concerned. It should be noted, though, that from the moment that a Member State submits its request, it can recognise the third country unilaterally. Therefore, in order to ensure a smooth transition, we call on Member States to consider jointly requesting the recognition of the UK.

There are approximately 22,000 holders of UK CoCs and it can be assumed that some 4,400 will expire during the first year following the UK’s departure from the EU.  Given the globalised nature of maritime employment and the mobility of ownership and labour arrangements, it would be no surprise if a substantial number of these seafarers currently work on vessels registered in EEA Member States other than the UK.  If no arrangements are put in place, they may lose their entitlement to do so – through no fault of their own – and this will have implications also for the EU shipping companies employing them.

The UK Government has issued a notice that it will unilaterally grant recognition to CoCs issued by EEA Member States if there is no deal.  We call on the European Commission and the Member States to take a similar step in order not to disrupt the employment of UK CoC holders on EEA-registered ships.  Our UK-based shipowner and seafarer organisations have written in similar terms to the UK Government.

We hope to count on your support and remain at your disposal to provide any further clarifications required.

Yours sincerely,

Eduardo Chagas
ETF – General Secretary

Martin Dorsman
ECSA – Secretary General

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