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Posted on: October 17th, 2013 by Simon No Comments

Whittaker & Co’s Response to the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) Definition of a Seafarer

It has recently been brought to our attention that the MLC have re-enforced their definitions of a Seafarer. Their document can be found here:


Firstly when reading this you have to remember that these definitions are made for MLC purposes, not for HMRC or other governing bodies.

The point that is raising a number of questions is in Annex 1 where it states:

Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel, when on board ships, are not considered to be seafarers for the purposes of the MLC

This raises the following questions:

1. Can a Maritime Security Operative still claim for Seafarers Earnings Deductions (SED) as a result of the MLC definition?

Basically yes they can. HMRC’s definition is detailed in the Employment Income Manual [on their website:


It clearly states in this document that:

Meaning of seafarer

Section 384 defines employment as a seafarer as an employment other than Crown employment (see EIM33035) consisting of the performance of duties on a ship or of such duties and others incidental to them.

Employees who are seafarers for this purpose will therefore include not only sailors but also anyone whose work is carried out on ships, such as cooks, entertainers and couriers on luxury liners. It does not matter if some of the duties are not performed on board ship so long as they are incidental to those that are.

We have spoken to the Marine Team in HMRC about this and they also confirmed that as long as the qualification criteria for SED, i.e. days out of country, employment status and foreign port visit, are still met then Security Operatives can still claim SED.

2. Will the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) still issue Seaman’s Discharge books to Security Operatives?

We have spoken to the MCA and they confirmed that the discharge books will NOT be issued to Maritime Security Operatives. They have only recently started to enforce this as a direct result of the MLC definitions.

3. How will Security Operative prove to HMRC the vessels they have worked on plus the ports they have visited if they have a tax return investigated by HMRC?

Again we have spoken to the HMRC Marine team about this. The Marine team confirmed that if a discharge book is not available then other documentation will be required to prove the vessels worked on and ports visited. They suggested obtaining copies of the following:

 Crew lists;

 Discharge papers;

 A letter from your employer with the details of the vessel worked on.

If you require further clarification on this matter please do not hesitate to get in touch with us here in Whittaker & Co

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