Legislation aimed at boosting seafarers’ pay gets royal assent

Legislation aimed at boosting seafarers’ pay has passed its final hurdle but may not immediately improve earnings.

The Seafarers’ Wages Bill – introduced after P&O Ferries sacked nearly 800 staff in March last year – received royal assent on Thursday.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said maritime workers “deserve a fair wage” and claimed the legislation will “improve pay and protect seafarers from exploitation”.

The new rules are designed to ensure thousands of seafarers frequently entering UK waters are paid at least the UK’s minimum wage.

They also require authorities to refuse harbour access to vessels that repeatedly fail to comply with this standard.

The Department for Transport said it will consult with stakeholders on the regulations required to implement the new laws.

Concerns have been raised about whether it will be possible to make foreign-based companies comply with the legislation.

Trade union organisation the TUC published a report last week warning of “gaping holes” in the Bill, such as a requirement for ships to enter UK harbours at least 120 times a year to fall within the law, meaning some employers will be able to “dodge it”.

P&O Ferries was widely criticised for its decision to replace its seafarers with cheaper agency staff without notice.

The UK minimum wage for people aged 23 and above is £9.50 per hour.

After the sackings, P&O Ferries said it would pay the new crew an average of £5.50 per hour, which it insisted was in line with international maritime laws.