French Government announces U-turn on controversial seafarer’s social security scheme

The Federation of the Nautical Industries has announced that, following a meeting last Monday with French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe, the controversial social charges for seafarer’s decree, otherwise known as decree no.2017-307 that came into effect on 1st July 2017, has been suspended. The decree received a mixed reaction from crew, owners and industry players, with some hailing it as a step in the right direction, and others calling it a death sentence for French yachting.

In the coming weeks it is expected that a new scheme will be announced that gives seafarers and employers a choice of schemes. Following a meeting on 8th September, the FIN stated on its website: “The Prime Minister has fully grasped the problem. Now, the withdrawal of this measure is registered.”

The decree set out obligations for yacht owners and crew, stating that all seafarers, irrespective of nationality, residence or otherwise domiciled in France, will be required to make social security contributions to ENIM, the French mariners’ social security. Decrees, a seldom used constitutional device, enables governments to effect the changes without a parliamentary debate or vote.

An immense amount of pressure had been put on the government following the announcement of the decree on 9th March. Many insurers, unions, yacht owners, yards and regional politicians alike voiced their concern of the decree, with several accusing the French government of overlooking the superyacht industry when creating it. Thierry Voisin, president of the European Committee for Professional Yachting (ECPY), criticised the decree, saying it would cause refit yards to lose business, and that it featured a lack of clarity on how the law applied to private yacht crew versus charter yacht crew.

Hill Robinson filed a lawsuit on behalf of three owners and a handful of industry companies against the decree. At the time of the decree’s announcement, Nick Hill, the firm’s managing director, commented, “This not only affects the yachts themselves, but also the whole infrastructure built around the superyacht industry.” The law firm Ince & Co., on behalf of several crew employers, also lodged an appeal against the law.

Yves Lyon-Caen, FIN president and chairman of the Beneteau Group, remarked, “It shows that we have been heard by the government.” He also claimed that the decree caused business in the French yachting industry to drop between 30-40% this summer.

For more information on superyacht law, read our guide to superyacht law.

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