Royal Caribbean Cruises fined in Rotterdam

On 30 September 2014, the world’s largest and most innovative cruise ship, “Oasis of the Seas”, has been dry-docked at Keppel Verolme’s shipyard in Rotterdam for maintenance work. Besides maintenance work, Keppel Verolme’s work scope on “Oasis of the Seas” includes painting of the ship’s hull and replacement of one of its engines. During the period of two weeks that the vessel was in dock Royal Caribbean used this dry-dock period for the refurbishment of the passengers’ facilities such as the renewal of 27,000 m2 of carpet.

At the end of the two week period an inspection of the Dutch employment authority took place. As a result, Royal Caribbean Cruises is suspected of breaking the Dutch Foreign Employment Act (Wet arbeid vreemdelingen).
According to the Dutch ministry of social affairs and employement 77 Philippines and 8 South-Americans worked without a working permit. Employers of foreigners working without a working permit are usually fined with a € 12.000 fine per person, so dependent on the exact findings, the fine could amount one million euro’s. Others may also fall within the scope of the definition of employer under the Dutch Foreign Workers Act, and if this is the case, they are usually fined too.

Although the authorities are of the opinion that Royal Caribbean Cruises can indeed be fined, this may not be the case, as under the law, there is an excemption for crew members aboard sea going vessels. In a similar case ruled by the Council of State in 2012, the fine was quashed, as the authorities had failed to render sufficient evidence that the persons aboard were not crew members, that performed routine crew activities, like daily minor maintenance to a vessel.

At this stage it is unknown whether Royal Caribbean Cruises will challenge the fine. They should.

If you have any questions on the Dutch Foreign Employment Act (Wet arbeid vreemdelingen), please feel free to contact our contact person. The lawyers of Mnerva Advocaten regularly represent employers in matters related to the Foreign Employment Act.

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