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Seafarers’ working time

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Seafarers’ working time



Directive 1999/63/EC — Agreement on the organisation of working time of seafarers


  • It puts into legislation the seafarers’* working time agreement reached between the European Community Shipowners’* Association and the Federation of Transport Workers’ Unions on 30 September 1998.
  • It takes account of the International Labour Organisation’s Maritime Labour Convention in regard to seafarers’ hours.


  • Every publicly or privately owned seagoing ship registered in a European Union (EU) country carrying out commercial maritime activities must respect the legislation.
  • The directive specifies a maximum number of working hours* or a minimum amount of rest time* over a given period.
  • Working hours must respect that:
    • a standard working day is 8 hours, with 1 day off and rest on public holidays;
    • maximum working hours must not exceed 14 in any 24-hour period or 72 over 7 days.
  • Rest periods:
    • must not be less than 10 in any 24-hour period, or 77 over 7 days;
    • may be divided into no more than 2 periods, one of which must be at least 6 hours;
    • must occur within at least 14 hours of each other;
    • must be disturbed as little as possible by safety exercises such as musters and fire-fighting and lifeboat drills;
    • must include adequate compensation for resting seafarers called out to work.
  • Ship masters have the right to require crew work to ensure the immediate safety of the vessel, its persons, cargo and others in distress.
  • Details of on-board working arrangements and the legislation’s provisions must be accessible and displayed.
  • Records must be kept of seafarers’ daily work and rest hours.
  • Manning levels must avoid or minimise excessive working hours to ensure sufficient rest and limit fatigue.
  • No seafarer under 18 may work at night*, although some exemptions are allowed.
  • No one under 16 may work on a ship.
  • Every seafarer:
    • must have a health certificate proving they are medically fit to work at sea. Some exceptions are permitted.
    • is entitled to annual paid leave. This is based on a minimum of 2.5 days per month worked and pro rata for incomplete months.
  • EU countries may:
    • permit exemptions to the specified working hours and rest periods, under certain conditions;
    • apply more, but not less, favourable conditions to seafarers than those contained in the directive.

The rules complement separate legislation on working hours on board ships using EU ports.


It has applied since 22 July 1999. EU countries had to incorporate it into national law by 30 June 2002.


The specific nature of the marine sector means that it is not covered by Directive 2003/88/EC on the organisation of working time and thus requires its own rules.

For more information, see:


Seafarer: someone employed in any capacity aboard a seagoing ship.

Shipowner: owner of the ship or any other organisation or person assuming that responsibility.

Working hours: time during which a seafarer works on a ship.

Rest time: time outside working hours, but not including short breaks.

Night: at least 9 hours, including midnight to 5 am.


Council Directive 1999/63/EC of 21 June 1999 concerning the Agreement on the organisation of working time of seafarers concluded by the European Community Shipowners’ Association (ECSA) and the Federation of Transport Workers’ Unions in the European Union (FST) — Annex: European Agreement on the organisation of working time of seafarers (OJ L 167, 2.7.1999, pp. 33-37)

Successive amendments to Directive 1999/63/EC have been incorporated into the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.

last update 06.09.2016