Hill Robinson is working to protect the rights of superyacht owners and crew to be fairly represented following the new legislation in France. Following French Social Security legislation, ‘Décret (decree) no 2017-307’ of 9 March 2017, any professional yacht crew member residing in France for more than three continuous months and working on a non-EU flagged vessel, regardless of size, must be enrolled under the French social security regime. Alternatively, the seafarer can enrol under the regime of another EU state ‒ or a country with a reciprocal agreement with France ‒ in which case their situation is considered on a case-by-case basis.
In a statement dated 30 June 2017, ENIM, the French agency responsible for collecting social security payments from French seafarers, restricted the application of the Decree to yachts assigned to commercial activity. Any French crew member working on board a yacht subject to the Decree will probably already be affiliated with ENIM. However, the Decree may negatively affect a large number of yacht crews who spend three months or more cruising or chartering on the Cote D’Azur, but who reside elsewhere. Although the Decree has already taken effect, this point has yet to be clarified.
Nick Hill explains, “This legislation is being brought in to broaden the social security coverage for Mariners from France. However, the concern is that it could lead to a large-scale enrollment of crew members from all other nationalities into the French social security system, with severe potential penalties for noncompliant employers, owners and crew members.”
Furthermore, all targeted crew and their employers must pay social security contributions into the French system. Non-French employers will also be required to provide a bank guarantee or deposit funds with the French authorities to cover potential liability.
“The outcome of this poorly conceived legislation is that a huge proportion of the superyacht fleet will be deterred from visiting French waters for any significant time. This will result in less private cruising and commercial chartering in the South of France, and reduce winter refits in French shipyards. This not only affects the yachts themselves, but the whole infrastructure built around the superyacht industry, including suppliers, contractors, shipyards and brokers,” states Nick Hill.
In an attempt to clarify the Decree, representatives of the French government and ENIM held a seminar at the Monaco Yacht Club in May. Concerned that the industry was coordinating nothing to postpone or block this legislation, Hill Robinson, representing 3 yacht owners, alongside MYBA, ECPY, Vauban 21, Monaco Marine and Composite Works Shipyard, challenged the Decree and filed for an interim freezing order pending the judicial review.
They argued that it not only violated the provisions of the 2006 MLC (Maritime Labour Convention), but also discriminated between employers based both on their place of establishment, and the place of residence of their employees. On 10 July 2017, the Conseil D’Etat rejected the interim freezing orderof the Decree, on the basis that they ruled it impossible to evidence discrimination or the violation of the MLC 2006 at this early stage.
Jean-Philippe Maslin from Ince & Co law firm explains, “Though the Conseil d’Etat rejected the petition for an interim freezing order, the judicial review process is still ongoing. It is important in the meantime for employers and seafarers to ensure that the seafarers concerned are duly registered. We are continuing lobbying efforts on behalf of Hill Robinson and other members of the industry to secure a moratorium on the application of the Decree. Should this fail, we are also in the process of obtaining from ENIM binding interpretations on questions which are currently pending about the decree. Such clarifications would be invaluable to guide shipowners and crew in the application of these new provisions.”
With the challenge to freeze the Decree rejected, and the legal action now being heard in a year’s time at the earliest, we must, therefore, proceed on the basis that this Decree is now effective and ensure that all parties are compliant with the law. This is for the protection of the employer, the crew and, ultimately, the owner of the vessel.
Scott Carrington, from Crew Employment Services, adds, “If any owner is unsure of their situation regarding social security and for the crew employed aboard their vessel, we are available to determine their current position and to present some basic potential solutions if required”.
Hill Robinson, MYBA and the PYA are keeping their members and the industry informed on a regular basis. Contact Hill Robinson directly for more information.