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Average wages

Social Security contributions for seafarers are based on average wages

The social security contributions of seafarers employed on board of ships under the German flag are, based on legal provisions, calculated based upon average wages, rather than on the actual individual income of the seafarer.

The average wages are established by a committee of the German Social Accident Insurance Institution for Commercial Transport, Postal Logistics and Telecommunication (BG Verkehr), based on the tariff agreements for German ocean shipping. They are periodically revised, subject to approval by the German Federal Insurance Authority ("Bundesversicherungsamt").

Contribution overviews of BG Verkehr contain current average wages

BG Verkehr publishes the current average wages in their two contribution overviews:

The average wages are listed in a table at the end of the contribution overview. Generally, BG Verkehr publishes their contribution overviews annually on 1st January. Supplements may follow throughout the year.

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Table of average wages is divided into four sections

The table of the average wages given in the contribution overview "Kauffahrtei und Große Hochseefischerei" is divided into 4 sections:

  • Section  A = sea-going vessels doing long-distance, intermediate and great coastal trade,
  • Section G = employees, whose grade is not listed among other sections (e.g. non-EU seafarers) or who receive a higher wage than which they were graded for, crew members on board offshore ships, ferries and Förde ferries, research and survey ships, yachts, service and kitchen personnel on tourist and offshore ferries as well as employees who are occupied in the so called “Gleitzone” (transition zone),
  • Section I = crafts of deep-sea fishing, and
  • Section L = canal helmsmen.

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For which seafarers do the average wages apply and for which don’t they apply?

Average wages apply, without exception, to all seafarers on seagoing vessels under German flag registered in the German shipping register of sea-going ships (first register). This includes, for example, any merchant ships on national trade.

In regard to seagoing ships under German flag which are registered in the German International Shipping Register (GIS = second register), the answer to the question whether average wages apply or not depends on the nationality and country of origin of the seafarer:

Nationality / country of origin of the seafarer Does average wage apply?

German seafarers

yes

Seafarers from EU/EEA (incl. Switzerland)

yes

Non-European seafarers (= not from EU/EEA) with place of residence in Germany

yes

Non-European seafarers with place of residence / habitual abode in EU/EEA (except Denmark, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland)

yes

Non-European seafarers without place of residence / habitual abode in EU/EEA + agreement on foreign wages (e.g. Philippian seafarers)

no

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Catering rate is usually included in average wages

Every shipowner is obliged to cater for free meals for the crew members. Free catering is a real monetary benefit, hence why it is included as benefits in kind in the calculations of the social security contributions. BG Verkehr establishes annually the value of the free catering as the catering rate. You can find the current catering rate under our heading „Current Contributions and Operands”.

The catering rate is already included in the average wages of the contribution overview except for section G.

For seafarers who are billed according to section G of the contribution overview, the employer has to add the catering rate to the gross wage. The total amount is the average wage.

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