Skip to main content

Recruitment agents


What is a recruitment agent?

A recruitment agent (sometimes called a crewing or manning agent) finds seafarers to work onboard vessels for its shipowner clients. They will check you have the certification you need, the national documentation and the right travel documents. The agent will also arrange your visa and medical requirements.

Private recruitment agents must be licensed by the competent national maritime authority (for example in the Philippines this would be the Philippines Overseas Employment Agency (POEA)) and that agency should ensure they provide an efficient, adequate and accountable system that protects and promotes seafarer employment rights.  Publicly operated recruitment agents must also be run in a way that promotes seafarer employment rights.


Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC)

The International Labour Organization's Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC) - also known as the Seafarers' Bill of Rights – sets out the minimum rights that you should expect when you work at sea.

You should have access to an efficient and well-regulated seafarer recruitment and placement system according to Regulation 1.4/Standard A1.4.  Further details can be found on page 13 of the ITF Guide for Seafarers to the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (see Downloads)

Agencies in countries that have not ratified the MLC must still meets its requirements if the ship is registered in a country that has ratified the MLC

Depending on which country you come from, your union may offer recruitment services under the terms of a collective bargaining agreement (CBA)


A recruitment agent should:

  • Check the labour conditions on ships they supply crew to comply with all regulations and, where appropriate unions' collective bargaining agreements

  • Inform you of your rights and duties under your seafarer employment agreement (SEA) and give you enough time to examine it before you sign up

  • Provide you with a copy of your seafarer employment agreement
  • Maintain an up-to-date register of all their seafarer placements
  • Maintain up-to-date lists of ships and company contact details where their seafarers are placed
  • Inform you of any shipping company policies, such as that no alcohol may be consumed onboard
  • Have an effective complaints procedure in place
  • Have an insurance system in place to compensate you for any failure to meet their obligations under the recruitment and placement service, or if the shipowner fails to meet their obligations under the SEA
  • Respect your right to privacy and the need to protect your confidentiality
  • Ensure that they can respond promptly and sympathetically to requests for information and advice from your family while you’re at sea – at no cost to you or your family
  • Keep up-to-date lists of contact details in case of emergencies

A recruitment agent must not:

  • charge you:

    • an agency fee

    • a registration fee

    • an administration fee

    • for a medical examination

    • for visa processing

    • for passport processing

    • an immigration fee

The ONLY costs that can be charged to you are those for:

  • obtaining your national statutory medical certificate
  • your national seafarers’ book
  • your passport or similar personal travel documents


Nor must they operate a blacklist of seafarers that could prevent qualified seafarers from finding work. 


There MUST be a process in place to enable you to make a complaint if a recruitment agency is not run properly or is in breach of the requirements of the MLC. Depending on the situation, you may need to complain to the authorities of your own country (for example, for Filipino seafarers this could be the Philippines Overseas Employment Agency (POEA)), those of the Flag State or those of a Port State.


If you have any questions or concerns regarding an agent, a job or job offer, please contact us via at