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Reassessing the regulatory social framework for more and better seafaring jobs in the EU

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Reassessing the regulatory social framework for more and better seafaring jobs in the EU

The European Commission is seeking to render the maritime sector more attractive for workers without undermining its competitiveness. It examines current Community legislation with a view to identifying exclusions or derogations affecting workers in the maritime sector and to determine the extent to which action is needed. The Commission is launching a first phase of consultation of the social partners concerning the direction this Community action could take.


Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and Committee of the Regions of 10 October 2007, entitled Reassessing the regulatory social framework for more and better seafaring jobs in the EU (first phase consultation of the social partners at Community level provided for in Article 138(2) of the Treaty) [COM(2007) 591 final - Not published in the Official Journal].


The maritime sector is currently developing in a highly globalised context, and there is an already extensive body of international conventions and standards applicable to it.

The European Union (EU) strongly supports efforts and initiatives aimed at strengthening international rules, such as the conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO) on maritime labour (2006) and on work in fishing (2007).

The Commission is seeking to promote ratification (authorised by Council Decision 2007/431/EC) and enforcement of these international standards with a view to completing EU internal and external policies.

European social legislation

EU social regulations make provision for a number of exclusions or derogations affecting workers in maritime professions. Four situations exist, namely:

  • non-exclusion (lack of specific provisions in general instruments);
  • specific legislation or general instruments containing specific provisions;
  • the possibility for Member States to introduce exclusions in their national legislation when transposing general directives. This situation concerns Directives 2002/74/EC, 94/45/EC and 2002/14/EC;
  • exclusion from the scope of application. This is the case of Directives 98/59/EC, 2001/23/EC and 96/71/EC.

As regards the latter two categories, the Commission is calling for a more detailed analysis, and concludes that certain exclusions might not be totally justified insofar as they make no contribution to the application of specific solutions that are better adapted to the workers' concrete situation. Where sufficiently strong reasons exist to maintain the existing exclusions or derogations, consideration should be given to whether specific EU legislation for the sector would be a better solution. Such a solution should guarantee to seafaring professions the same level of protection as that enjoyed by other workers under the general directive. In that case, the particular legal conditions applying in the Member States need to be examined in order to make sure that the seagoing professions enjoy adequate levels of protection. Such an examination is relevant particularly in the case of conditional exclusions, which oblige Member States to establish more specific regulations or alternative guarantees, ensuring the same level of protection.

Health and Safety

Generally speaking, in EU legislation, those in the seafaring professions enjoy the same levels of protection in terms of health and safety as workers in other sectors. Furthermore, directives specific to the sector supplement the general directives, such as the directive concerning the minimum safety and health requirements for work on board fishing vessels. This latter directive applies only to fishing vessels with a length between perpendiculars of 15 m or over. Therefore, the Commission is promoting the development of non-restrictive tools (good practices) aimed at improving practical implementation of existing Community legislation on the protection of health and safety of fishermen on board small fishing vessels.

Free movement of workers and coordination of social security

According to case-law, the provisions of the EC Treaty on the free movement of workers are also applicable to maritime transport. On the one hand, as regards coordination of social security schemes, Community legislation provides that workers and members of their families do not lose their social security protection when moving within the Community. This also applies to third-country workers legally resident in the EU and in a situation that is not confined in all respects within a single Member State.

Role of social dialogue

The social partners have regularly addressed issues relating to the improvement of onboard safety and welfare and are promoting the adoption of a strong European position. They are currently involved in negotiations with a view to reaching a European agreement transposing relevant provisions of the ILO Maritime Labour Convention. A similar approach could be envisaged as far as promoting application of the recent ILO Work in Fishing Convention is concerned.

Within the context of the current consultation process, the Commission invites the social partners in the maritime sector to state their position regarding the issues raised in the Communication.


The Commission has called for a comprehensive maritime policy as part of its strategic objectives for 2005-2009. Current consultations are taking place as an extension of the 2006 Green Paper on future maritime policy. This raised the issue of the exclusion of the maritime sector from certain parts of European social and labour legislation.

Last updated: 21.12.2007