What Seafarers Can Expect From a Professional Manning Agency

smiling female officer on the bridge of a ship while working at sea

Image Courtesy of the IMO #MaritimeWomenPhotoShare Campaign

As a reputable organization that helps seafarers find jobs on cargo ships, tankers, bulk carriers and even passenger ships, we strongly believe that seamen and women should know their rights when it comes to finding work at sea.

Unfortunately there are too many unscrupulous companies out there posing as maritime recruitment agencies, manning agents or crewing agencies whose sole purpose is to rip off seafarers.

It’s important that you know how to spot scammers who offer fake seafarer jobs and we’ll run through a couple of pointers in this blog post. But what is also crucial to know is what you should be expecting from a manning agency.

After all, you need to know that they have your back when you’re looking for your next job on a ship.

What seafarers should expect from a professional manning agency

First of all, it’s well worth taking a few moments to find out exactly how you are protected by law.

The ILO Maritime Labour Convention, 2006’s Regulation 1.4 and Standard A1.4 has been put into place to ensure that seamen and women have access to an efficient and well-regulated seafarer recruitment and placement system.

The convention tells both public and private companies whose main role is to recruit seafarers and place them onboard vessels what they are required to do or provide.

And it is these requirements that you should be taking note of if you’re currently looking for work on a ship with a new or unknown manning agent.

We suggest reading the below points and making sure that anyone you approach when you’re applying for a new seafarer job sticks to the following principles.

Let’s break it down. First of all, let’s talk about money.

What fees should you pay to find a job at sea?

  • No reputable manning agency, maritime recruiter, ship crewing agency etc will charge you an admin fee to recruit, hire or place you on a vessel.
  • No reputable seafarer job website will charge you to create an account or look for work onboard using their platform.
  • The only charge you will usually have to pay as a seafarer is the cost of obtaining your national statutory medical certificate, your national seaman’s book and your passport or other similar personal travel documents.
  • You should not have to pay the cost of any travel visas needed as these should be taken care of by the shipowner.

What are a seafarer’s rights in respect of a manning agent?

  • A manning agent should inform you of your rights under your employment agreement before or during the hiring process.
  • They should also ensure that proper arrangements are made so that you can examine your employment agreement/contract before and after they are signed. You should also receive a copy of the agreement.
  • They must ensure that your employment agreement respects any relevant laws and regulations as well as any collective bargaining agreement.
  • They should also inform you of your duties under your employment agreement before or during the hiring process.
  • The services offered to you as a seafarer by a manning agency should be operated in an organized manner that protects and promotes your employment rights.
  • The agent must make sure that the shipowner with whom you are placed has the means to protect you from being stranded in a foreign port.
  • They must have a system of protection (such as insurance or an equivalent means) to compensate you for any financial loss incurred if a job offer does not work out for reasons out of your control - or they must make sure that the shipowner meets these obligations.

General rules manning agents should abide by

  • If the company is private, it must comply with a system of licensing, certification or other type of regulation.
  • They must maintain an up-to-date register of all seafarers they recruit should the relevant authorities need to inspect them.
  • If a complaint regarding their activities is raised, it must be assessed and responded to. The relevant authority must be advised of any complaints that are not resolved.
  • They are not allowed to use procedures, processes or blacklists that have been designed to deter or prevent seafarers from being hired for jobs on ships that they are qualified for.
  • They should be sure that any seafarers they recruit are qualified and hold the correct documents needed for a position.

A couple of notes about the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006

Any shipowners who use a maritime recruitment service, manning agent or ship crewing agency that is based in a country or territory that does not adhere to the MLC, 2006 must ensure that the services they offer still conform to MLC, 2006 requirements.

In addition to this if a country has ratified the MLC, 2006 they are required to advise their seafarer nationals about any potential implications that could occur if they accept a job on a ship that flies the flag of a State which has not ratified the Convention.

How to tell if a manning agency is fake

Learning to spot a manning agent that you really don’t want to be working with can be easier said than done. We hope the above guidelines help, but here are a few surefire ways to tell if a crewing agency is, at best unprofessional, or at worst - a complete fake.

  • If they try to charge you an admin, sign up, or recruitment fee
  • If someone contacts you out of the blue to offer you a job and doesn’t bother asking you any interview questions and doesn’t seem to know anything about your skills or qualifications.
  • If someone is very insistent that you use a specific agency to apply.
  • If their application forms, contracts, website or seafarer job ad look unprofessional, or are poorly worded or have spelling mistakes.

It goes without saying that a little common sense should hopefully protect you from fake shipping company jobs.

For example, if a job seems to be too good to be true then it probably is! If you’re being offered a salary that is well above the norm for your rank, be on your guard.

The same applies to merchant ship jobs that seem stupidly easy to get hired for. You know how hard it can be to find employment sometimes but if you receive an email telling you you’ve got a job offer and have a vessel lined up and all you’ve done is posted your seafarer resume online, again, be very careful.

In both of these instances any kind of contact will often be followed up by a request for payment. Two words: Don’t pay!

How to find genuine jobs at sea

Looking for your next maritime job contract with a reputable and honest company?!

Take a look at Martide’s container, tanker, bulker, passenger and cargo ship job vacancies.

It’s free (and always will be for seafarers) to create an account and to apply for jobs. We never charge you a cent. Our aim is to help you find jobs at sea with professional shipowners and manning agents.

Create your free account today and we hope to see you onboard soon!

Disclaimer: All of the points listed above are taken from the International Chamber of Shipping’s Manning Agency Guidelines.

Eve Church

Eve Church

Eve is Martide's content writer, publishing regular posts on everything from our maritime recruitment and crew planning software to life at sea. Eve has been writing professionally for more than two decades, crafting everything from SEO-focused blog posts and website landing pages to magazine articles and corporate whitepapers.


Apply for seafarer jobs now!
See all jobs