AS A GENERAL rule, the employment of the seafarer shall cease when the he completes his period of contractual service aboard the ship, signs-off from the ship and arrives at the point of hire.
Similarly, a seafarer’s employment contract is terminated even before the contract expires as soon as he arrives at the point of hire for any other reasons, including the following grounds:
1) when the seafarer signs-off and is disembarked for medical reasons or death
2) when the seafarer signs-off due to shipwreck, ship’s sale, lay-up of ship, discontinuance of voyage or change of ship principal
3) when the seafarer, in writing, voluntarily resigns and signs off prior to expiration of contract
4) when the seafarer is discharged for just cause
A seafarer who requests for early termination of his contract shall be liable for his repatriation cost as well as the transportation cost of his replacement. This is oftentimes known as voluntary repatriation.
The employer may, in case of compassionate grounds, assume the transportation cost of the seafarer’s replacement.
Compassionate ground, under the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) contract, refers to incidence of death of an immediate member of the seafarer’s family which includes his parents, spouse and children if the seafarer is married or his parents if the seafarer is single.
This ground covers only death and not cases when the family member has fallen dangerously ill, been seriously injured.
It does not also include emergency situations which would not be expediently resolved without the seafarer’s attendance.
In case of death in the family, it is extremely important for the seafarer to decide whether he is still mentally capable of continuing working. Being in charge of the navigational watch or working in the Engine Room when he is not yet fully focused can be very dangerous, which can cause accidents onboard.
A minor loss of focus or a momentary lapse of reason could prove far more disruptive to others than your leave of absence.
It is advisable for the seafarer to communicate with his colleagues onboard openly. Nobody understands a seafarer better than a fellow sailor. Everyone onboard could empathize with similar occurrences in their lives when they were onboard.
The seafarer, if discharged at a port abroad for any reason shall be repatriated to the Philippines via sea or air or as may otherwise be directed by the principal / employer / company.
He shall be provided with accommodation and food, allowances and medical treatment, if necessary, until he arrives at the point of hire.
The POEA contract likewise included the right for a compassionate visit as provided in Republic Act 8042, as amended by Republic Act 10022.
When a seafarer is hospitalized and has been confined for at least seven consecutive days, he shall be entitled to a compassionate visit by one family member or a requested individual.
The employer shall pay for the transportation cost of the family member or requested individual to the major airport closest to the place of hospitalization of the seafarer.
It is, however, the responsibility of the family member or requested individual to meet all visa and travel document requirements.
(Atty. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 09175025808 or 09088665786)/PN