Merchant Navy

UBT – Maritime Sectors unites officers, sailors, bosuns, shoreworkers and other seafarers who work in the merchant navy. At international level, the legal position of sailors is governed by the “MLC - Maritime Labour Convention”, which was ratified by Belgium in 2013. If you have any questions concerning your salary, employment contract, compensatory leave or tax, whether or not you are resident in Belgium, do not hesitate to contact UBT – Merchant Navy. You can rely on a high quality service and a wide range of information.


As the Belgian Transport Union BTB, we did not stick to our guns but made sure that seafarers, under the Belgian flag, are also entitled to temporary compensation if they are unable to sign up due to the corona crisis.

So all seafarers working under Belgian wage and working conditions are entitled to a unemployment allowance as soon as their compensation leave from their last voyage has ended.

The BTB has ensured that seafarers who still have a lot of compensation leave from the past do not have to take it temporarily in order to be entitled to unemployment fee.
This rule also applies to all Europeans working under the Belgian system.

The procedure is as follows:
1) The shipowner will send a list of seafarers, who are unable to board due to the crisis, to the pool.
2) You will receive a document that you have to fill in (it may be that the shipowner does this for you for the most part)
3) You will have to make a choice of the payment institution: choose BTB
4) If you have colleagues who are not yet members, they can also tick BTB as a choice. We will take care of everything for them as well (please pass on this information to your colleague).
5) We make sure you are in line with your membership and will pay you the unemployment fee.
6) Next year, you will receive forms 281-13 for your tax declaration (this form concerns the income from unemployment and the withholding tax already paid).
7) If you wish, we will file your tax declaration as BTB. We do the tax declaration of hundreds of European seafarers sailing under the Belgian flag. Our service is specialised in this field.
8) The unemployment fee will be paid into your bank account at the end of each month and amounts to approximately 65 euros per day.

If you have any further questions, do not hesitate to contact us. We are always digitally accessible. You can find our contactinformation on the bottom of this page


IMO Circular Letter No.4204/Add.23 - Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Recommendations for port and coastal States on the prompt disembarkation of seafarers for medical care ashore during the COVID-19 pandemic.



Anyone that works at sea also lives at sea. Sailors therefore lead a very special kind of life. For this reason, special regulations have been agreed, in order to protect them against the arbitrary actions of captains and shipowners, as well as unemployment, illness and accidents at work. But special regulations also exist for sailors, in order to protect them against the specific risks that they face, such as piracy, sailing in war zones, etc.

The UBT represents approx. 92% of seafarers employed on board ships flying the Belgian flag. The Belgian merchant navy is subject to sectoral agreements concluded by the Belgian Joint Committee for the Merchant Navy.

The following collective agreements currently apply:

  1. Working conditions and salaries for sailors who are not registered in the pool but are employed on board merchant ships flying the Belgian flag
  2. Work and pay conditions for captains and officers registered in the Belgian merchant navy pool
  3. Working conditions and salaries of sailors registered in the merchant navy pool who are employed on board short sea vessels
  4. Work and pay conditions when working in war zones
  5. Work and pay conditions when working in piracy zones


A roadmap through the seafarer vaccination campaign

Now that the vaccination campaign for both Belgian and non-Belgian seafarers is out of the starting blocks, it is time to get some guidance on the procedures and information to obtain a vaccine. Below you can find some documents to help with this. If you have any questions or need help with translation, do not hesitate to contact us.

International Guidance on Eliminating Shipboard Harassment

BTB Strives for the elimination of harassment on board. ITF has published, together with ICS, a Guidance on eliminating shipboard harassment and bullying. This document is mean to guide both shipowners and crew in the fight against on board harassment. You can find the document linked here


Paid Tideover Allowance

UBT – Merchant Navy is also the organisation that pays tideover allowances to seafarers who find themselves employed between assignments. Do not hesitate to send an e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you would like to find out more about the necessary procedure.

Acclimatisation (getting used to life on board)

Students from the Antwerp Maritime Academy prepare for jobs on board seagoing vessels. After gaining their qualifications, they contact a shipowner or owner of a seagoing vessel, in order to offer their services. If they are able to convince the shipowner of their abilities and enthusiasm, they will be able to sign an employment contract with him. But, unlike office employees or shop floor workers, they will live and work on board a ship for several months at a time. So that students have an opportunity to “sample” life at sea and gain the necessary practical experience, they can spend time on board a ship during the holiday periods. This period of training is paid via the merchant navy pool and UBT – Merchant Navy provides a payment service.

Tax service

Sailors often spend months away at sea. This can create problems if they have to complete certain administrative formalities, such as their annual tax return. UBT – Merchant Navy will ensure that your tax return is submitted in good time, together with the necessary documents, or ask the relevant tax office for extra time. Do not hesitate to contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for further information.


Sacco De Mesmaeker - Frontline Worker BTB-UBT Maritime Sectors

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Latifa Charafi - Secretariat BTB-UBT Maritime Sectors

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Raf Burm - Propagandist BTB-UBT Maritime Sectors

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Jacques Kerkhof - Federaal Secretary BTB-UBT Maritime Sectors

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