Seafarers and work permits

Under paragraph 128 of the immigration rules, a seafarer will need a work permit to:

  • join ferries operating between two UK ports, including ports in Norther Ireland, but not the Channel Islands or Isle of Man;
  • join ‘ro-ro’ services between UK ports which carry twelve or more lorry drivers;
  • join dredgers operating wholly or largely within UK waters; or
  • join scheduled domestic freight services between UK ports.

Work permits are not required by the following:

  • those joining ferry services to ports outside the UK, including ports in the Channel Islands and Isle of Man;
  • those joining ships which will be operating out of a single UK port but where the voyage is primarily outside UK waters, for example, voyages to offshore installations, offshore dredging and dumping operations;
  • entertainers, hairdressers and others not strictly crew members who are joining a ship to work on it during its voyage may be treated as contract seamen, that is, not needing work permits, provided you are satisfied that they are due to leave the UK on the ship’s next sailing.


All national travel rules for vaccinated / non-vaccinated crew will end from 0400hrs UK time on Friday 18th March.

This covers all devolved nations (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland).

There will be no testing or quarantine requirements from the UK government for any crew entering the UK from this date.

However, please note that there may be differences in local rules applied by ports, terminals and health authorities so we recommend that you still reach out on a case by case basis to the local office, as procedures can change quickly.

For example, some terminals still want negative tests prior to crew change taking place, or will permit by launch only.

Please also note that some airlines may still require testing prior to departure, depending on transit routes and final destinations. It is the responsibility of the manning agent / crewing manager / ship manager to advise Inchcape Shipping of any testing requirements from the airlines.

We have recently encountered examples where departure requirements were not checked by the travel agent. On this basis, no tests were arranged prior to departure and crew members were subsequently denied boarding when they arrived at the airport. Flights will be missed in these circumstances, as there will then be insufficient time to arrange for tests to be taken and for results to be returned back from the laboratory prior to flight departure.

Please always check departure requirements with the airline and relay back to agent if testing is required.