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New employment contract rules for Cayman Islands-flagged yachts

19 March 2024

Yacht professionals working onboard vessels flagged in the Cayman Islands must now be employed under an improved written contract, after the territory's Parliament passed a new act to bring its shipping regulations in line with international maritime standards.

All seafarers working on Cayman-flagged vessels are affected by the Merchant Shipping Act 2024 − which came into force as of 11 March 2024 and replaces rules put in place in 2021. This includes crew employed onboard private/pleasure vessels.

The updated Act provides that all seafarers on Cayman Islands ships and yachts must be employed under a written employment agreement that contains the following provisions as a minimum:

• the amount of wages and method of payment
• the production of monthly wage accounts
• any wage deductions permitted by the Merchant Shipping Act 2024
• entitlement to repatriation and medical expenses
• entitlement to leave
• notice period required
• the agreed place for the return of the seafarer
• the governing law

The Guidance Note issued by the Maritime Authority of the Cayman Islands states that the requirement for all seafarers to be employed under an employment agreement does not provide any additional rights or entitlements to seafarers, but the actual entitlement must now be included in the employment agreement. For example, there is no statutory entitlement to leave for seafarers serving on 'pleasure vessels' – this has not changed (although your contract may provide an entitlement to leave), but if you are employed on a pleasure vessel with no entitlement to leave, your employment agreement must now state this.

Further, no rights or obligations under the new Merchant Shipping Act can be renounced by an employment agreement.

Nautilus yacht organiser Cheryl McCann said: ‘Remember, terms and conditions of employment are negotiable. If you are not happy with what is included, you can put forward your preferences before entering into any employment agreement.

‘We would not expect any crew member to work onboard a vessel where terms and conditions are less beneficial, or offer any less protection to them, than the industry minimum labour standards.’