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Who are we?

Who are we?

The Seafarers’ Union of Croatia (SPH) is a non-profit organisation gathering about 10 thousand seafarers, boatmen and other workers whose work and lives are linked primarily to the sea and maritime activities. 

It all started back in 1990, when a group of seafaring workers founded the Union in order to fight for and protect the rights of Croatian seafarers. Their work was recognised also by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), whose member we have been since 1991, while the first SPH congress was held in 1995. 

SPH activities are regulated by the Statute, adopted by its members at a regular congress, which sets down in detail all the issues important for the activities of the Union, such as organisation, goals, modes of action and its areas of work and activity.

According to our Statute, we are a workers’ association founded with the aim of protecting the interests and rights and improving the social and societal position of Croatian seafarers, boatmen and other workers whose jobs are related to maritime activity and inland navigation.

It is important to know that:

– we are independent of the state, employers, political parties and other organisations, but we cooperate and negotiate with all of them, where appropriate, on various issues in the best interests of our members;

– we advocate democracy and freedom and oppose any form of discrimination, incitement to discrimination and harassment.


Organisation of the Seafarers’ Union of Croatia:

The Union is managed by our members through SPH bodies whose composition and operation are regulated in detail by the Statute.

Congress is the most senior SPH body which meets regularly every five years to discuss the work of the Union so far, determine the work plan for the next inter-congress period and elect the members of the Central Committee and the General Secretary.

The Central Committee consists of 38 members elected at Congress in order to direct and monitor the work of the Union in the period between congresses.

The General Secretary is elected at Congress for the period between congresses, represents the interests of the Union in the Republic of Croatia and abroad and is responsible for implementing the Union’s work plan. The general secretary of the Seafarers’ Union of Croatia, elected at Congress in 2022, is Neven Melvan.

Other bodies of the Union are the Supervisory Board, the Executive Board and the Statute Committee.

Activity of the Seafarers’ Union of Croatia

There are many activities that SPH is actively engaged in, both at national and international level, in order to protect the rights and interests of our members.

Regarding national activities, we play an important role in the process of enacting national laws and other regulations, tirelessly warning of existing inconsistencies and problems, and insisting that our legislators take into account the specificities of the maritime industry and protect seafarers, who are referred to as ‘the best Croatian product’ by the government itself. We participate in discussions and negotiations with representatives of the government, representatives of Croatian shipping companies, mediators in the employment of seafarers and all other governmental and non-governmental organisations whose work is related to the maritime industry. We place special emphasis on creating the most favourable social position for seafarers, including occupational health and safety, health insurance, the exercise of pension rights and many other fundamental rights of seafarers.

Regarding international activities, we are active in the work of numerous international trade union organisations such as the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) and the Nautilus Federation. By working with the several bodies of these organisations, whose primary goal is to defend and advance the rights and interests of workers – that is, seafarers – we endeavour to ensure our national interests and protect Croatian seafarers.

An important part of the Union’s work is its participation in certain intergovernmental specialist organisations of the UN, namely the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO). Within the IMO, SPH representatives take part in various committees and subcommittees where, together with colleagues from the ITF, we ensure that the rights and safety of seafarers always come first. Within the ILO, we participate intensively in all activities related to the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) 2006. We work together on the adoption of amendments to the Convention and on its application but also on many other issues arising from it, solely for the benefit of seafarers. Furthermore, we cooperate on specific issues that are important for seafarers, such as the employment of young seafarers and the special protection of women seafarers.

Collective bargaining is one of the basic tasks of every trade union, so this, as well as supervision of the implementation of the collective agreements we have concluded, is a very important part of our work. We bargain collectively both at national and international level where we advocate the best possible working and living conditions for our seafarers, including, for example, wages, the duration of the employment contract, rights regarding sick leave, the right to an annual contract and many other rights that directly affect seafarers and their families. 

We have concluded many collective agreements with international companies (employers), but of particular importance are those collective agreements concluded at national level (with companies/employers registered in the Republic of Croatia). Here we must primarily highlight the Collective Agreement for Seafarers on Ships Sailing Internationally (2023-2024) and the Collective Agreement for Seafarers on Ships in Coastal Liner Maritime Transport.

We pay special attention to certain groups of seafarers and workers, such as young seafarers (through our Youth Section) and women in the maritime industry (through our Women’s Section).

The SPH Youth Section gathers all members of the Union up to the age of 35. They meet regularly and advise on the special problems faced by young seafarers today. Thanks to the initiative of the Youth Section, SPH now grants scholarships to students in maritime faculties in the Republic of Croatia. Preparations for passing the lieutenant’s exam are also regularly organised. SPH has issued a special brochure intended specifically for young seafarers who are just starting out on their careers. 

The SPH Women’s Section gathers all female SPH members and, over the years, they have provided advice on the problems they encounter in their maritime journeys. Through the work of the Women’s Section, we want to alert members and the public about the existing position of women seafarers but also address this so that they can enjoy an equal position in the maritime industry.

The ITF Inspectorate is also an indispensable part of SPH’s work. Through the day-to-day operations of the Inspectorate, we monitor living and working conditions on ships, primarily those under flags of convenience (FOC). Our inspectors visit ports in the Republic of Croatia (and sometimes abroad) on a daily basis in order to come into direct contact with seafarers on ships and to help them exercise their fundamental rights, such as the right to the payment of wages, favourable living and working conditions, visits to the doctor when necessary, repatriation, shore leave and many others. The National Inspectorate supervises Croatian ships in cabotage.

We provide education and information to our members primarily through our website, social networks, Pomorski vjesnik newsletter and various workshops and round tables as a result of which our members can find out about all aspects of our work, join us in the implementation of activities and receive all the information they need in good time. Also, by producing various publications, such as the Seafarer’s Rights Guide, we try to answer in one place all the most important and most common questions that seafarers might have.

Legal assistance to our members is another of our main tasks. Our members can ask questions to lawyers at SPH, but also through SPH to the legal firms with which we cooperate and which are experienced in the issues of concern to our members. As part of our legal assistance package, we solve issues related to the right to health insurance and sick leave, the possibility of obtaining a pension and meeting the necessary conditions, compensation for damages and the termination of employment contracts; and we also help with tax returns (the so-called 183 days requirement) and many other issues.

Financial assistance provided through the SPH Solidarity Fund is intended for members who need it most, as a one-off payment of a certain amount or as a loan. The Solidarity Fund Committee takes care of the fair distribution of the Fund’s resources. In this way, we directly realise one of our fundamental principles – solidarity.

Financial assistance is also granted to institutions, organisations and projects whose aim is the welfare of seafarers.

Join us

You can become a member of the Seafarers’ Union of Croatia by filling out the applicationform and paying the membership fee.

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