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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 2006 Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) in regard to seafarers’ hours of work.


  • Every publicly or privately owned seagoing ship registered in a European Union (EU) Member State 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:
    • a standard working day is 8 hours, with 1 day off and rest on public holidays;
    • maximum working hours must not exceed 14 hours in any 24-hour period or 72 hours over 7 days.
  • Rest periods:
    • must not be less than 10 hours in any 24-hour period, or 77 hours over 7 days;
    • may be divided into no more than two 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.
  • Records must be kept of seafarers’ daily work and rest hours.
  • No seafarer under 18 may work at night* except for specific duties or training.
  • The employment, engagement of or work by those under 18 is not allowed if it is likely to jeopardise their health and safety.
  • Ship masters have the right to require the crew to work if necessary to ensure the immediate safety of the vessel, the people on board, its cargo and others in distress.
  • Details of on-board working arrangements and the legislation’s provisions must be accessible and displayed.
  • Crewing levels must avoid or minimise excessive working hours to ensure sufficient rest and limit fatigue.
  • Every seafarer:
    • must have a health certificate proving they are medically fit to work at sea — the directive sets out the details for such certificates including issuing rules, validity and the nature of the health assessment. Some exceptions are permitted;
    • is entitled to annual paid leave based on a minimum of 2.5 days per month worked and in proportion for incomplete months.
  • Member States 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.

Amendments to Directive 1999/63/EC

  • The directive was amended by Directive 2009/13/EC following the signing of the MLC in 2006.
  • Directive 2009/13/EC was in turn amended by Directive (EU) 2018/131, following changes to the MLC in 2014, which focuses on seafarers’ rights in case of being abandoned in foreign ports and includes updated rules for repatriation, financial security and shipowners’ liability.

Related legislation

The enforcement of the directive is covered by separate legislation (Directive 1999/95/EC) on enforcement of working hours on board ships using EU ports, as well as Directive 2013/54/EU on general compliance with and enforcement of the MLC (see summary).


It has applied since 22 July 1999 and had to become law in the Member States by 30 June 2002.



Seafarer. An individual employed in any capacity aboard a seagoing ship.
Shipowner. Owner of the ship or any other organisation or person assuming that responsibility.
Night. At least 9 hours, starting no later than midnight and finishing no earlier than 5am.


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.


Directive 2013/54/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 November 2013 concerning certain flag State responsibilities for compliance with and enforcement of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (OJ L 329, 10.12.2013, pp. 1–4).

Council Directive 2009/13/EC of 16 February 2009 implementing the Agreement concluded by the European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA) and the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) on the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, and amending Directive 1999/63/EC (OJ L 124, 20.5.2009, pp. 30–50).

See consolidated version.

Directive 1999/95/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 December 1999 concerning the enforcement of provisions in respect of seafarers’ hours of work on board ships calling at Community ports (OJ L 14, 20.1.2000, pp. 29–35).

last update 10.12.2021