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Members at work

Yacht reminder: an email is not a contract!

1 February 2024

A common problem reported to Nautilus International's yacht strategic organisers is that a member discovers the pay and conditions onboard their new yacht are not what they expected.

Unfortunately, when the member complains to their employer, it turns out that they have no method of redress because they did not sign a proper contract at the outset. In some cases, the member has entered into an agreement via email, perhaps on the understanding that a contract will follow.

They fly out to the vessel, but when the contract arrives it is different than previously agreed – and at that point they are already onboard.

'An email is better than nothing. It's good to have something in writing but remember that it is not watertight,' says yacht strategic organiser Laura Molineux. 'If you come to Nautilus for help, it is incredibly difficult and sometimes impossible for us to enforce what someone has promised to you in an email, text or WhatsApp message. While statutory laws will still prevail, this will only provide you with minimum labour protections rather than the better terms recorded on a contract.

'For example, on a commercial vessel under the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) an employer cannot terminate an employee without giving them seven days' notice – but a contract might well have provided for 30 days' notice or more, giving the seafarer extra protection.'

'Our advice would be to only fly out once you have a signed contract. That is your only real guarantee.'

More information on Seafarer Employment Agreements and Maritime Labour Convention guidelines can be found on the Nautilus Yacht Hub. If you are a Nautilus member experiencing any issues related to contracts, please get in touch with your strategic organisers via


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