SINGAPORE - Seafarers who are abducted by pirates or armed robbers in an attack while out at sea will stay employed and be paid their salaries while being held captive, said Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min on Wednesday (March 25).
It does not matter whether the seafarers employment contract has expired or that either party to the contract has given notice to suspend or terminate it, he added.
This is among the changes made to the Merchant Shipping (Maritime Labour Convention) Act which Parliament subsequently passed.
Dr Lam, speaking during the debate on the proposed amendments, said the changes would allow Singapore to meet the 2018 amendments to the Maritime Labour Convention.
The convention is an international agreement under the International Labour Organisation, which sets out seafarers' rights to decent conditions of work.
In explaining the change, he said: "Should a seafarer be held captive on or off a ship as a result of an act of piracy or armed robbery against the ship, the seafarer's employment agreement continues to have effect during the period of captivity.
"This is regardless of whether the date fixed for the expiry of the seafarer's employment agreement has passed or either party to the seafarer's employment agreement has given notice to suspend or terminate it."
He added that a captive seafarer's wages and entitlements must continue to be paid during that period, until he is released and repatriated, or until his death in captivity.
The seafarer's employer also has to repatriate the seafarer on his release from captivity, he said.
Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) asked whether shipowners would have to continue paying the wages of seafarers whose whereabouts are unknown and whose deaths cannot be confirmed.
Replying, Dr Lam said that in such cases, a presumption of death certificate may be applied for in court.
Whether the amendments will cover terrorism-related abductions, he said that would depend on the facts of each case. "Shipowners may take additional insurance cover for terrorism," he added.
The amendments would also allow seafarers to terminate their contracts on giving notice, should the ship they are sailing in travel to high-risk areas.
Singaporeans working for non-Singapore registered ships will also be protected under the Act, said Dr Lam.
The amended Act also has a new clause that provides a basis for shipowners to make claims from insurance companies when a seafarer is abducted.