Mariner's Rights


What recourse does a Mariner have when the non-union company they work for misses several pay periods in a row?
Walk off without a relief?
Sue the company?
Wait it out and hope for the best?


have the US Marshall “arrest” the ship you are serving on if it is currently in the USA

a seaman’s wages come before any liens so that should force the owner to make good…

I then hope that miserable POS Gudmundor Gfeltafish spend the rest of his life regretting the disaster he built on the backs of his mariners


You could give the union a call, they might get you started in the right direction.


Workers of the world, unite!


I’d do what @c.captain said but at a minimum they owe you all money due at sign off as per US law (which hasn’t been updated to reflect modern pay periods and banking methods).

Keep in mind that the shipping articles are a federal contract that specifies your pay on it.

46 USC 10313

(f) At the end of a voyage, the master shall pay each seaman the balance of wages due the seaman within 24 hours after the cargo has been discharged or within 4 days after the seaman is discharged, whichever is earlier. When a seaman is discharged and final payment of wages is delayed for the period permitted by this subsection, the seaman is entitled at the time of discharge to one-third of the wages due the seaman.
(1) Subject to paragraph (2), when payment is not made as provided under subsection (f) of this section without sufficient cause, the master or owner shall pay to the seaman 2 days’ wages for every day the payment is delayed.


What it is practical for you to do to collect your wages, depends upon a lot of different things. What kind of ship, is it sailing foreign or coastwise, where is it located, what are the next ports, how many crew, where is the employer based, where does the company run its payroll, etc. etc. Do you have a union.

In general, it can be very difficult for a small crew to find a lawyer willing to take your case on a contingent fees basis. Most lawyers will want you to pay a cash retainer, and then bill you by the hour.

Also, it’s very expensive to “arrest” a ship in the US. It’s relatively cheap and easy for your lawyer to get a US District Court judge to order the “arrest” of the ship, but the US Marshal will not execute the arrest, until the crew, or the union, or someone, posts a huge cash bond to cover the cost of paying a “substitute custodian” to take possession of the ship, pay for its care, wharfage, etc. If the case drags on and the US Marshal runs out of money from your bond, he will ask you for more money. If you don’t pay, he will release the ship from arrest.

Some state departments of labor can be helpful. Some states also have laws that require the payment of certain types of seamen. For example, Washington State has a law that requires written crew contracts on fishing boats, and gives unpaid fishermen the right to the highest wages paid in the port, penalty wages, and if I recall correctly attorney fees. Washington employment law is favorable for an employee of a Washington company, or that is working in Washington. Alaska provides some state protections, especially with regard to repatriation, but much less than Washington.

If the ship is documented in the US, it is cheap and easy to record a lien against a ship. The seamen’s wage lien comes ahead of the bank. Send a copy of the lien to the company and the bank demanding payment. Not paying the crew and allowing a lien to attach violates the loan agreement. The bank may arrest the ship. Eventually, the bank may pay you. If the ship is sold at public auction, the crew gets paid before the bank.

If you are in foreign port, or going foreign, in a country that is signatory to the MLC, local port state control should detain the ship under the MLC until you are paid.

If you have a union, call them first. If you don’t have a union, call all the union halls in the port and ask for help. You may want to call state and city labor departments, and port authorities, and the USCG. If the company cannot pay the crew, it can probably not maintain the ship in safe condition either, the USCG may detain the ship. If the port has a seamen’s center, or a mission serving seamen, call them. They may be very helpful. Calling newspapers might help. Posting the details on gcaptain may help.

An owner that is not paying the crew is either stupid, crazy, or the company is really broke.

You will be much better off if you have someone ashore speaking for all of the unpaid crew, rather than you speaking for yourself being the “disgruntled employee” making “outrageous” claims against Joe Boss.


Isn’t the Jones Act supposed to protect US Seafarers in such situations?
Isn’t that why US don’t feel the need to sign up to MLC’06?


No. The Jones Act has two principal components.

First, the Jones Act requires that vessels engaged in the coastal trade be US built, US owned, US financed, and US crewed. There are some exceptions.

Second, the Jones Act gives seamen the right to compensation for injury or illness which occurs while in service of the ship. This is in addition to any common law claims that a seaman may have under the “general maritime law,” (judge made case law that has become established legal precedent), typically for the claims under the “doctrine of unseaworthiness.”

To my recollection, nothing in the Jones Act applies to the payment of seamen’s wages.

The US has Federal civil statutes that requires the payment of seamen’s wages. And it’s a very tough sounding law in favor of seamen, but in practice it Is a very difficult law for the seamen to enforce at their own expense, and courts rarely order the more drastic remedies that the law allows.

Seamen on foreign going US flag vessels have more legal rights and remedies. The strongest seamen’s employment and wage statutes do not apply to vessels in the coastal and inland trades. The vast majority of US seamen are employed in the coastal and inland trades.

Historically in the 19th Century, US seamen were often kidnapped, forced to work against their will, abused, abandoned, and unpaid by shipowners. This resulted in laws for the protection of seamen.

In theory, seamen are “wards of the court” and the courts are supposed to be vigilant in protecting seamen.
However, in practice most judges are biased against seamen, and seamen’s claims. At least initially, the courts usually favor Joe Boss. It usually takes a lot of expensive effort by good lawyers to obtain seamen’s remedies. Even then, it often takes months, or years to get paid, and it often won’t be for the full amount.

There is a lot of mythology that US seamen have all kinds of rights on any ship anywhere, and that US seamen sue shipowners all the time. This is nonsense. Many believe that US courts give seamen huge awards of money in every case. Don’t believe it. It can happen, particularly in seamen’s injury cases where the ship was proven unseaworthy and the owner was proven negligent, and the seaman is crippled for life, but for every seamen that gets a huge award, dozens of seamen get little or nothing.

I have never heard of US seamen actually getting large awards in wage claim cases. In the majority of wage claims seamen get little or nothing because they cannot afford the cost of pursuing these relatively small claims.

When a company does not pay its crew, it is by definition insolvent and a candidate for bankruptcy. A lawsuit often forces the company to file for bankruptcy. Seamen’s wage claims come first (or close to it) in bankruptcy, but a seamen still has to file a claim in bankruptcy court and fight the other creditors for his money. Banks will often spend a lot of money trying to defeat other creditor claims, especially small creditors, like seamen, who cannot afford the fight.


Thanks for all of the interesting and informative input. The contracts signed by all of the Mariners onboard stipulate that the Company will pay them twice a month with the monies being deposited on the 5th and the 20th of each month. My feeling is that failure to make a payment voids the contract and the Mariner is owed a flight home if he or she chooses.


The immediately preceding clause from the same CFR may have bearing to this gentleman’s case as well. He still hasn’t answered which type of articles he is signed onto. Other posters are correct. You are contracted to the Master.

(e) After the beginning of the voyage, a seaman is entitled to receive from the master, on demand, one-half of the balance of wages earned and unpaid at each port at which the vessel loads or delivers cargo during the voyage. A demand may not be made before the expiration of 5 days from the beginning of the voyage, not more than once in 5 days, and not more than once in the same port on the same entry. If a master does not comply with this subsection, the seaman is released from the agreement and is entitled to payment of all wages earned. Notwithstanding a release signed by a seaman under section 10312 of this title, a court having jurisdiction may set aside, for good cause shown, the release and take action that justice requires. This subsection does not apply to a fishing or whaling vessel or a yacht.


My apologies for not making this clearer earlier.
The ship is not currently trading but sitting at anchor in a US port.
Thanks again for the input.


A disgusting example of this is Motts vs Green Wave. The chief engineer died from injuries that the captain was told by were serious and needed immediate medical attention. That attention was available on the CG icebreaker towing the Green Wave but the captain never bothered to tell the CG or the icebreaker crew.

In this case, “mariner’s rights” were the equivalent of our right to starve to death while living under a bridge.


I recommend doing this. I don’t know if they are actually hurting for money or if they are trying to fuck the union negotiations but I’m not sure I would wait and hope it gets better.

I’m not even sure what you mean by that.

What articles are there other than these?


Given the other recent posts on gcaptain about unpaid crew on a ship being detained by the USCG for deficencies, I think we can all make a guess about what ship and port.


I wish I can help you but this the first time I see such a thing happens with a shipping company. correct me if I am wrong, it seems like MarmadukeSurfaceblow is a victim of the infamous TAL and you still with them until this moment, Also it seems you are a new mariner. I am sorry, I wish you came here first before you take the job.
The only thing I can tell you is run for your life get out that rust stain does not waste your time.


On that note, is subchapter L somehow exempt from signing articles? I’ve never heard of any US OSVs signing articles and can’t find an exemption for it.

(On a side note, @jdcavo, there’s a pretty hefty section omitted in the online CG-705A form about not being capable for the position, etc. It just cuts off in the middle of it and goes to the next paragraph in the text. Is there some email address to bring that to the attention of HQ?)


Not that I’m aware of, this has been discussed on here before and no one can figure out how they get away with it.


My recollection, and I may be wrong, is that articles are only required for vessels sailing on register.


Here’s the whole section from 46 CFR:

§14.201 Voyages upon which shipping articles are required.
(a) Before proceeding either upon a foreign, intercoastal, or coastwise voyage (including a voyage on the Great Lakes) listed in paragraph (b) of this section or with the engagement or replacement of a merchant mariner for such a voyage, each master or individual in charge of a vessel or seagoing barge of the United States must execute shipping articles however prepared, manually or electronically. The master or individual in charge and each mariner engaged or replaced must sign the articles.

(b) Except as provided by §14.203 of this subpart, articles are required upon each voyage by a vessel of the United States—

(1) Of 100 GRT or more, on a foreign voyage, which is a voyage from a port in the United States to any foreign port other than a port in—

(i) Canada;

(ii) Mexico; or

(iii) The West Indies.

(2) Of 75 GRT or more on a voyage between a port of the United States on the Atlantic Ocean and a port of the United States on the Pacific Coast; or

(3) Of 50 GRT or more on a voyage between a port in one State and a port in another State other than an adjoining State.


This is probably how the OSV companies get around it. Fourchon to a rig back to Fourchon is a voyage from Louisiana to Louisiana.