The French authorities issued a new instruction last week to ENIM, the French body charged with collecting social charges for sea-going personnel.

The announcement outlines several fundamental changes to the previous position taken by the French authorities and clarifies some, but not all of the issues which concern yachts and their crew who spend time in France:

  • New definition of French residency both ashore and on board yachts when in France
  • New ruling concerning the time period when yachts are in shipyards in France
  • Precision on the alternative of taking out private insurance rather than registering with ENIM

These changes have come about thanks to the ongoing efforts of industry partner Associations such as MYBA, ECPY, GEPY, and the PYA along with those bodies representing the interests of commercial businesses.

Maritime lawyers Ince & Co have been been commissioned by MYBA to monitor the situation.  They have been liaising with the French authorities in order to obtain further simplification of the rules applying to the affiliation of seafarers with ENIM or to a private insurance scheme. Further to this recent update please read below the following summary they have recently published.

  • Clarification on the meaning of “residency on French territory”:

Two alternative criteria can be taken into account in order to determine the length of residency “in a stable and regular manner”:

  • The presence of the applicant’s household in France; OR
  • Presence on French territory or in a French overseas department for an aggregated period of at least 6 months (over a period of 12 months).

Where a seafarer does not have a household in France, the 6 month period is now used as a criterion to determine whether such seafarer is resident in France by virtue of their presence on board a vessel as part of their employment. The length of their residency is analysed with regard to the presence of the seafarer in French territorial or internal waters.

A seafarer must be registered with ENIM or a private insurance scheme at the beginning of their employment if it is anticipated that they will stay in in French territorial or internal waters for a period of 6 months or longer. If a seafarer signs a further employment contract following a previous one with the same employer, all employment contracts must comply with article L.5551-1. On this point, further clarification seems necessary.

The 6 month period does not need to be continuous.

  • Special rules for vessels undergoing periods of refit/repair/other works during which the yacht is immobilised or in a shipyard

We have obtained special treatment for seafarers employed on board a yacht located in a shipyard or during periods during which the yacht is immobilised due to refit/repair or other works.

Seafarers on board or employed to work on a foreign-flagged yacht are not required to affiliate with ENIM for the period in which the yacht is undergoing such works, including while the yacht is immobilised in a shipyard, to the extent that such seafarers do not have a household on French territory (in which case they are required to affiliate).

The situation is clear for vessels in shipyards (the time spent in a shipyard is not counted). However, the precise meaning of “immobilisation” is not clear and we require further clarification on the rules applying (for example) to seafarers employed to work on yachts which are immobilised in a marine but unable to navigate. Additionally, more information is required on the meaning of “work” in this context.

  • Concept of “cover equivalent to article L.111-1 of the French Social Security Code”

Private insurance needs to cover all the branches of Article L.111-1 of the French Social Security Code. ENIM has indicated that this means the branches already listed in our previous notes (not covering the unemployment branch). However, the actual level of coverage for each of those branches by private insurance will not be monitored by ENIM.

  • Where a seafarer is covered by private insurance

It is acceptable for the costs of private insurance to be for the account of seafarers, subject to any obligations relating to the payment of certain costs incumbent on yacht-owners/employers.

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