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Law amended to protect jobs of seafarers abducted at sea

Law amended to protect jobs of seafarers abducted at sea
Fabian Koh Mar 26, 2020

Seafarers who are abducted by pirates or armed robbers in an attack at sea will stay employed and be paid their salaries while being held captive, said Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min yesterday.

It does not matter whether the seafarer's employment contract has expired or that either party to the contract has given notice to suspend or terminate it, he added.

This is among the changes made to the Merchant Shipping (Maritime Labour Convention) Act which Parliament has passed.

Dr Lam, speaking during the debate on the proposed amendments, said the changes would allow Singapore to meet the 2018 amendments to the Maritime Labour Convention. It is an international agreement under the International Labour Organisation which sets out seafarers' rights to decent conditions of work.

In explaining the changes, he also said a captive seafarer's wages and entitlements must continue to be paid during that period, until he is released and repatriated, or until his death in captivity. When he is freed, the seafarer's employer has to repatriate him, he added.

Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) asked whether shipowners would have to continue paying the wages of seafarers whose whereabouts are unknown and whose deaths cannot be confirmed.

Replying, Dr Lam said that in such cases, a presumption of death certificate may be applied for in court.

On whether the amendments will cover terrorism-related abductions, he said that would depend on the facts of each case. "Shipowners may take additional insurance cover for terrorism," he added.

The amendments would also allow seafarers to terminate their contracts on giving notice, should the ship they are sailing in travel to high-risk areas.

Singaporeans working for non-Singapore registered ships will also be protected under the Act, said Dr Lam.

The amended Act also has a new clause that provides a basis for shipowners to make claims from insurance companies when a seafarer is abducted.