Ignorant and Illiterate. View from the nineteenth century.

The common mariner is easy and careless, illiterate and unthinking; he had no such resources, in his own intelligence and experience in habits of business, as can enable him to take accurate measures of postponed payments, with proper estimates of profit and loss…
Per Sir William Scott in The Sidney Cove (1815) 2 Dods. 503.

One of the main rights of the seamen was and is their right to be paid at the time when their contract comes to an end. As far as English law goes this right was guaranteed by the lien over the vessel on which seaman has served and goes back over 400 years in English Admiralty Court.

… seaman’s claim for his wages was sacred as long as single plank of the ship remained.
Per Sir William Scott in The Sidney Cove (1815) 2 Dods. 503.

The right for wages based on the contract of employment was not always easy to enforce due to the "extreme disparity" between seamen and the shipowners, which Lord Stowell in The Minerva (1825) 1 Hag 347 at p.355, illustrating both parties to the contract in the following words:

On the one side are gentlemen possessed of wealth and intend, …, conversant in business, and possessing the means of calling in the aid of practical and professional knowledge. On the other side is set of men, generally ignorant and illiterate, notoriously and proverbially reckless and improvident, ill provided with the means of obtaining useful information, and almost ready to sign any instrument that may be proposed to them; and on all accounts requiring protection, even against themselves.

Nowadays, perhaps, it might be successfully argued that most of seafaring people are no more same illiterate and proverbially reckless as it was in the nineteenth century, but the second part of the above allegation remains largely valid even today, and although there is hardly a lack of information on board, nevertheless seamen still generally ignorant about their own rights and in this sense require protection "even against themselves".

That is not because seamen are slow to learn, but because office staff in numerous management branches all over the world is much faster in their small tricks to economise on their meals, travel and wages, sometimes against the letter of contract. Such state of things acknowledged by modern law, thus for example in Doby Navigation Co Ltd v The Ship "ANL Progress", Salmon J. commenting on the words of Lord Stowell in The Minerva said in the High Court of New Zealand that:

It would not, of course, be fair to describe seamen in those terms now. Also their position has changed by virtue of the fact that they have the protection of unions. Nevertheless, the third defendants in this case are Filipinos, far from home. There is obviously a disparity of power between them and the owners of the ship. It is appropriate to continue to adopt a benevolent and protective attitude.

For example payment of monthly wages under an ordinary contract of employment between seaman and management company is due by the end of each month, as per Collective Bargaining Agreement on can find on board. On the other hand there is a practise to remit home allotment for money earned each calendar month at the beginning of the next month. It is done under excuse that money are sent on the last day of current month will be usually received at destination in 2 or 3 banking days. So at first glance it looks sensible. But as per your contract, which is governed by CBA (Collective Bargain Agreement), your allotment should be sent to your bank account 2 or 3 banking days before the last day of month, so money arrives by the end of month.

On these pages I attempted to examine this problem in brief, but it is always for each individual to decide whether to insist on his own rights or not - life is often give and take story and that principle may and does sometimes prevail.

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