Social security seafarers

The social security of individuals employed on board of a vessel at sea will in principle be determined by the legislation of the flag state.

In principle only the seafarers that are employed on a vessel flying the flag of Belgium, will be subject to Belgian social security. However, particular groups of employees can be excluded/included with exceptions made based on international agreements can apply. In addition to the brief overview below, we advise looking into every specific situation in detail, as the social security for seafarers is rather complex.

Belgian social security seafarers

In accordance with the Belgian social security law, the general social security regime for employees does not apply to seafarers in the merchant navy.  This particular group of employees is subject to the special regime of Belgian social security of seafarers in the merchant navy, in accordance with the decree-law of February 7, 1945.

For the application of the decree-law of February 7, 1945, seafarers should be considered as employees who have an employment contract with a ship-owner in the merchant navy to perform professional activities on board of a maritime vessel. A maritime vessel is each vessel that is used or fit to be used at sea.

An employee that is employed as a seafarer with the Belgian merchant navy and is enrolled with the Belgian Pool of Seafarers is compulsorily covered by the Relief and Provident Fund for seafarers (Hulp-en voorzorgskas voor zeevarenden/Caisse de Secours et de Prévoyance en faveur des marins). His dependents will also be covered by the Relief and Provident Fund for seafarers.

Seafarers that have their place of residence outside the EU or in a country with which Belgium does not have an agreement regarding social security are in principle not subject to the special regime of Belgian social security of seafarers in the merchant navy if:

  • They are insured for social risks in their state of residence; or
  • The ship-owner has concluded an insurance agreement in accordance with the conventions of the international employment organization.

The social security contributions are withheld by the ship-owner and collected by the Relief and Provident Fund for seafarers.

Relief and Provident Fund for seafarers
(Hulp- en Voorzorgskas voor Zeevarenden)
Olijftakstraat 7-13
2060 Antwerpen – Belgium
+32 3 220 74 60