Seafarers are basically the unappreciated rock stars of the ocean. It is the basis of their role to perform one of the toughest jobs in the world by operating to standard some of the largest ships humankind has ever built. They do it tirelessly, on rough seas and very risky areas.

The computer and chair that you are sitting on right now more than likely had some component transported by sea. Were it not for seafarers, global trade would halt and people would not have access to basic necessities and some nations would find it difficult to subsist.

One would expect that seafarers are treated with respect and are paid fairly after facing extreme health hazards and in some areas, pirates. Seafarers do not work for free. However, ship owners and those responsible for the payment of wages are not always on time, not always fair and sometimes blatantly refuse to pay crew wages. Seafarers sacrifice a lot to go to sea and many have family commitments back home that are sometimes dependent on the wages that are painstakingly earned. I have seen several crew wage complaints and it is more common than one could imagine.

So what should a seafarer do when he or she is not paid?

1) Check your contract. Never leave your home state without a signed copy of your contract. Your contract should be consistent with the Maritime Labour Convention. You are advised to keep a signed original in your possession. You should scan a copy (you can use camscanner on your smartphone) and perhaps email it to yourself or store it on a free cloud service like Dropbox or Google drive.

2) Do not be intimidated. Evasive shipowners may try to use victimizing tactics, false promises of future payments and incremental payments on the total amount that is owed in order to maintain the operation of the ship. You have worked diligently for your wages and you are to get the full wages that are owed to you.

3)You have very significant rights. “Crew wages – Maritime Lien” is a powerful seafarer right that, upon the necessary evidence, can arrest a ship and in some cases even force the sale of the vessel. This right to crew wages exists without a contract and you will still have the right to your wages even when the ship is sold.

4) Realise your manning agent may not always want to help. Manning agents will not always act in your interest and may not help to resolve the issue of your unpaid wages. Do not assume that because you have paid them a fee to secure your job on the ship that this will obligate them to help. Also, take note that the payment of such a fee in order to get a job is contrary to the Maritime Labour Convention, which is incorporated into the law of many countries.

5) Most cases can be settled with minimal intervention. International Seafarer organisations report receiving over 1,500 ship related complaints about unpaid wages each year and it ranges from a whole crew to just one person. At Temple Stoke, we can act on your behalf against any shipowner, and outline their contractual obligations as well as their international and Flag State obligations in order to settle your case quickly and effectively.

Temple Stoke lawyers are experienced, maritime specialist lawyers. We can help you resolve your unpaid crew wages claims.

Are you a seafarer who wants to make a complaint or want to know? Email us for a free confidential consultation at

“Words may inspire but only action creates change” Simon Sinek