Equal pay for same work for ship workers on foreign ships sailing in Norwegian waters and on the Norwegian shelf?

Norway currently sets few requirements for pay and working conditions for ship workers on board foreign ships sailing in Norwegian waters and on the Norwegian shelf. Now, however, the Government has put forward a proposal to introduce a new law requiring that ship workers on foreign ships are guaranteed equal terms as employees on NOR ships.

Why a new law?

The reason for the legal proposal is to promote a fair and decent working life by securing foreign ship workers equal pay and working conditions as ship workers on NOR ships.

Minister of Fisheries and Ocean Policy Bjørnar Skjæran has expressed that “the requirement for Norwegian pay and working conditions will protect working people by promoting a fairer working life, preventing social dumping and prevent low-wage competition.”

An argument behind the legal proposal is that Norwegian seafarers should not be outcompeted at home by working people with far worse wages. The proposed rules are therefore meant to contribute to a fair competitive situation within Norwegian coastal trade and Norwegian shipping on the Norwegian shelf.

What do Norwegian pay and working conditions include?

Pay and working conditions are currently not a defined term in the maritime shipping regulations, but will typically include both pay, working and rest time, holiday, travel, cost coverage etc.

However, with the wording “Norwegian pay and working conditions” in the proposed new law, only provisions on wages, overtime allowance, shift and rotation allowances and nuisance allowances are mentioned. Working conditions in general are not covered. The Government points out that pay is dynamic, and that it is relatively easy to operate with different pay levels depending on whether the ship is in Norwegian or international waters.

Who will be covered?

Requirements for Norwegian pay and working conditions will apply to ship workers on ships that provide services or carry out stationary activities in Norwegian territorial waters, or that are part of the construction, operation, or use of facilities in the Norwegian shelf and in the Norwegian economic zone. This includes:

  • Ships in coastal trades shipping cargo or passengers between Norwegian ports
  • Ships in cruise businesses sailing between Norwegian ports when over half of the sailing measured in time takes place in Norwegian territorial waters
  • Other ships in Norwegian waters that provide services or carry out stationary activities (typically support vessels and work boats or ships being used as hotels for brief periods of time)
  • Ships included in the production, operation or use of facilities or installations on the Norwegian shelf and in the Norwegian economic zone if the ship is on the Norwegian shelf or in the Norwegian economic zone for at least 30 days, or the ship’s total presence on the Norwegian shelf or in the Norwegian economic zone exceeds three months over a twelve-month period

The proposed regulation will not apply to ships sailing from one Norwegian port to another Norwegian port solely to unload ingoing cargo or land passengers from abroad, or to load outgoing cargo or passengers travelling to other countries. Exceptions are made for fishing vessels.

Who is responsible?

It is primarily the employer who shall ensure that the ship workers are given Norwegian pay and working conditions. If the employer is someone other than the shipping company, the shipping company also has a duty to ensure that the rules are complied with by the employer. The employer and the shipping company will be jointly and severally liable for the employees having fulfilled the economic claims and rights that will follow from any new law. Rights holders, i.e. owners of permits or concessions pursuant to the Petroleum Act, the Seabed Mineral Act, the Aquaculture Act or the Offshore Energy Act, and operators, also have a duty to ensure this pursuant to the law. The duty to ensure this means that routines shall be implemented to investigate and if necessary follow up that the requirements of the law are complied with. In practice, this duty will be fulfilled through requirements set in the contracts with the rights holders or operators’ suppliers.

The Norwegian Maritime Authority is given supervision authority pursuant to the law, and will establish a supervision regime which will primarily base itself on control of documentation (random control samples of work contracts, wage payments or similar), possibly in combination with interviews/conversations with crews. It is also proposed that representatives from unions that have entered into national tariff agreements for NOR-registered ships shall have access to board ships that are docked, investigate whether the circumstances fulfil the requirements of the law, and report to the authorities.

Note: If breaches of the requirements of the law are found in investigations, the Norwegian Maritime Authority may follow up through administrative measures such as compulsory fines, retentions, and fines for violations.


The consultation deadline for the proposal for the new law relating to Norwegian pay and working conditions on ships in Norwegian waters and the Norwegian shelf expired 31 August 2022. Several consultation replies have been submitted, and the proposal is currently being reviewed. If the proposal for the new law is adopted, it is expected that the law will enter into force in 2023.

Did you know?

  • The relationship between employers and employees who are employed on board ships is regulated by a separate act for ship workers; the Ship Labour Act
  • On ships registered in NOR, Norwegian pay and working conditions apply pursuant to the Ship Labour Act, the Ship Safety and Security Act and tariff agreement applicable to NOR ships
  • On foreign ships in Norwegian waters and on the Norwegian shelf, the flag state’s rules on pay and working conditions currently principally apply


Companies with operations linked to the sea and the ocean have in common that they need advice in a number of legal fields. Many law firms can offer this. SANDS can also offer something more. With offices in six of the largest coastal cities, we know the industries from the inside. We know both the challenges and issues that the marine industry faces, and what room for action exists within the regulations.

Contact one of our specialists within your industry for a conversation about how we can assist you.