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Maritime Employment Law: Egypt’s Maritime Sector

The maritime industry is essential to the global economy, facilitating the movement of goods and commodities across the world’s oceans. The welfare and rights of seafarers, the individuals who operate these vessels, are governed by a complex web of international conventions and local laws. This article delves into these legal frameworks, focusing on their specific requirements and implications for maritime labor, with a special emphasis on the Egyptian context.

The Maritime Labor Convention (MLC), 2006

The MLC, 2006, is a landmark convention that consolidates and updates more than 65 international labor standards related to the maritime sector. It aims to ensure comprehensive rights and protection for seafarers while creating a level playing field for countries and shipowners committed to providing decent working and living conditions for seafarers.

Minimum Age and Employment Conditions

The MLC sets the minimum age for seafarers at 16 years and outlines detailed requirements for conditions of employment. These include ensuring that seafarers have clear employment agreements, fair terms of employment, and regulated working hours to prevent fatigue and ensure adequate rest.

Accommodation, Recreational Facilities, and Food Quality

The convention mandates specific standards for onboard living conditions. This includes the quality of accommodation, which must ensure privacy and comfort for seafarers. Recreational facilities are required to be provided, recognizing the need for seafarers to have physical and social activities during their off-duty hours. Additionally, the MLC emphasizes the importance of the quality of food and catering services to ensure seafarers maintain a healthy diet in order to avoid illnesses like scurvy.

Health, Medical Care, and Social Protection

A crucial aspect of the MLC is its focus on health protection, medical care, and social security for seafarers. It requires shipowners to provide comprehensive health protection and medical care, comparable to that available to workers ashore. This includes access to prompt and adequate medical care while at sea and ashore, and measures to protect seafarers’ mental health.

The International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), 1978

The STCW Convention sets the international benchmarks for the training and certification of seafarers. It ensures that seafarers are appropriately trained, certified, and kept up-to-date with the latest maritime safety standards, essential for the protection of life at sea and the marine environment.

Competence and Qualification Requirements

Under the STCW, specific competence and qualification requirements are established for various ranks and functions on board. It ensures that seafarers are not only initially trained but also undergo continuous training and assessment to maintain and update their skills, particularly in light of technological advancements in the maritime industry.

The International Safety Management (ISM) Code

The ISM Code is integral to the international regulatory framework for the safe operation of ships and pollution prevention. It requires shipowners and operators to establish and maintain a Safety Management System (SMS), emphasizing the critical role of human factors and management in ship safety.

Local Maritime Labor Laws in Egypt: Law No. 8 of 1990

Egypt’s strategic location as a maritime hub, particularly with the Suez Canal being a critical global waterway, necessitates robust maritime legislation. The Egyptian Maritime Law No. 8 of 1990 serves as the cornerstone of the country’s maritime legal framework, addressing various aspects of maritime commerce and labor.

Rights and Duties of Seafarers

A significant portion of Law No. 8 of 1990 is dedicated to defining the rights and obligations of seafarers working on Egyptian vessels. This includes provisions on employment contracts, wages, working and living conditions on board, and mechanisms for dispute resolution, ensuring that seafarers’ rights are protected in line with international norms.

Egyptian Labor Law: Law No. 12 of 2003

While the Egyptian Maritime Law provides specific regulations for the maritime sector, the Egyptian Labor Law offers a broader framework for labor rights and protections applicable to all workers in Egypt, including those in the maritime industry.

Working Hours, Wages, and Leave Entitlements

Law No. 12 of 2003 sets out the general principles governing working hours, wage structures, and leave entitlements, ensuring that workers receive fair treatment. For seafarers, these provisions are particularly important in regulating on-board working conditions and ensuring adequate rest periods.

Health and Safety Measures

Occupational health and safety are paramount in the maritime industry, given the unique hazards of the maritime environment. Law No. 12 of 2003 emphasizes the need for comprehensive health and safety measures, aligning with the MLC’s requirements to protect seafarers from occupational hazards.

Enforcement and Compliance

Ensuring compliance with maritime laws and conventions is a complex task that involves multiple stakeholders, including shipowners, operators, seafarers, and regulatory authorities. Egypt has established mechanisms for the enforcement of maritime laws, including inspections and certifications, to ensure that ships and their operators comply with both local and international standards.

Enhancing Maritime Labor Standards: The Road Ahead for Egypt

As Egypt continues to assert its position as a pivotal maritime hub, the need for an adaptive and robust legal framework for maritime labor becomes increasingly crucial. The path forward involves not only maintaining compliance with international conventions but also addressing unique local challenges and leveraging opportunities for improvement.

Promoting Seafarers’ Welfare

Beyond legal and regulatory measures, the welfare of seafarers should be a central concern. Initiatives aimed at improving living and working conditions on board, providing mental health support, and ensuring access to medical care are vital. Egypt can play a leading role in these areas by adopting innovative approaches and best practices from around the world.


The conventions governing maritime labor rights and welfare provide a critical framework for ensuring the safety, security, and well-being of seafarers. For Egypt, with its strategic maritime position and longstanding maritime heritage, the effective implementation of these conventions is both a responsibility and an opportunity. By continuously updating its legal and regulatory frameworks, investing in the development of its seafarers, and engaging actively with the international maritime community, Egypt can enhance its maritime labor standards and reinforce its status as a leading maritime nation. The journey towards achieving these goals is ongoing, requiring dedication, collaboration, and a commitment to upholding the rights and dignity of those who work at sea.

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Written By

Joseph Iskander - Attorney-at-law

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