Benefit from Social Security in case of Need: The Social Insurance for Seafarers for Insured Persons
Who is Insured by the Social Insurance for Seafarers?
You sail on a ship under a German flag? You are a coastal seaman or a coastal fisher – and that is your main occupation?
You also make compulsory contributions to the German pensions insurance? Then you benefit from the special insurance cover provided by the Social Insurance for Seafarers and are protected well in case of need.
The pay plays a role
What role does your earnings pay? Those who are employed in seafaring and who earn more than 450.01 euros, is a compulsory member of the Social Insurance for Seafarers. Seafarers who are in a minor employment are not subject to a compulsory membership in the Social Insurance for Seafarers.
Important Information for Seafarers from the New Federal States
1 January 1992 was an important date for seafarers from the new federal states: this was the date on which the Social Insurance for Seafarers opened for them. They acquire periods of insurance in the meaning of the Social Insurance for Seafarers statutes as from this effective date. This was made possible by the unification treaty.
Seafaring periods – Insurance periods
There is also an effective date for this too: those who were no longer seafarers before 1 January 1992, are not insured by the Social Insurance for Seafarers.
The seafaring periods that are insured in accordance with the statutes are otherwise added to the seafaring periods in the new federal states (including such under the GDR flag). It is decisive for the insurance cover that the seaman was in employment that was subject to compulsory insurance as from 1 January 1992, or was in employment that was subject to compulsory insurance in the former federal states prior to 1 January 1992. Prior to this effective date, these were seafaring periods in the new federal states that were not conform with the statutes – there was no accident insurance cover with the See-Berufsgenossenschaft occupational accident insurance.
This is stated in the Social Insurance for Seafarers statutes
The Social Insurance for Seafarers statutes state: seafaring periods that are taken into account as insured periods in the former federal states are also recognised for seafarers in the new federal states. No difference shall be made.
- civil clerks with a seafaring employment on a National People´s Army or West German Armed Forces ship cannot have these seafaring periods recognised as insured periods.
- Seafarers shall have the seafaring periods spent on ferries belonging to the German Reichsbahn or the German Bundesbahn respectively as from the respective privatisation date (1 April 1993 or 1 January 1994 respectively) credited as what are referred to as “waiting periods”.
This rule does not have validity for the board restaurant employees who were in seafaring employment however.
Which Seamen do not have to pay Compulsory Contributions
The Social Insurance for Seafarers is a compulsory insurance. Its benefits are financed by the contributions paid by the shipping companies and the insured seafarers.
The following are insured:
- Seafarers on board merchant ships or fishing vessels
- Coastal seamen and coaster fishers
Who does not have to pay compulsory contributions?
The seaman can only be exempted from paying compulsory contributions if he is no longer able to meet the statutory insurance conditions for the bridging benefit until his regular age of retirement so that he can obtain benefits from the Social Insurance for Seafarers. The statutory retirement age is between 65 and 67.
What does he have to do?
The insured person can file an application for exemption from the obligation to pay compulsory contributions within a period of two months of him commencing his employment as a seaman. This results in him not paying any contributions as from the first day of his employment. Those who file the application later shall only be exempted from the obligation to pay compulsory contributions as from the date on which the application has been received by the Social Insurance for Seafarers
When Seafarers are Exempted from Paying Contributions
As a first step, the Social Insurance for Seafarers checks how many calendar months are missing for the seaman so that he
- meets the so-called “waiting time“: the seaman is to have gone to sea for a period of 240 calendar months;
- the so-called “insurance law conditions“ are to have been met: the seaman is to have gone to sea for a minimum period of 108 calendar months after the month in which he attained the age of 37.
In a second step, the Social Insurance for Seafarers calculates how long the seaman still requires until he reaches his individual retirement age, so that he can complete the missing seafaring duration. This calculation is always based on the commencement of the employment for which the seaman wishes to be exempted from his obligation to pay compulsory contributions. Should the check result in the determination that the seaman shall no longer be able to complete the required seafaring periods, he does not have to pay any contributions to the Social Insurance for Seafarers.
The times for which the seaman can prove that he has paid contributions to the Social Insurance for Seafarers form the sole basis for the check.
The personal career planning, such as the commencement of seafaring employment with a seasonal company, does not have an influence on the check. It is of no interest in connection with the check and it especially does not provide justification for the seaman not having completed the required seafaring periods.
If “Old-age Pensioners“ Remain on Board
The seaman who is of statutory retirement age and is in receipt of the full statutory old-age pension, can continue to work – no matter whether on land or sea –. He does not pay any pensions insurance contributions and Social Insurance for Seafarers contributions. He is then exempted from the insurance and his earnings do not incur contributions.
Wavering the insurance exemption
It certainly makes sense to waver this insurance exemption however. This is especially the case if the seaman does not think much of being a “pensioner” and prefers to remain on board. He then pays state pension insurance contributions and Social Insurance for Seafarers contributions. He is not only paid a higher pension but he also completes longer seafaring periods in the Social Insurance for Seafarers. However: the employment on board is not to be a minor employment.
If the Obligation to pay Compulsory Insurance Contributions Remains after the Personal Retirement Age
Seafarers who have attained their personal statutory retirement age (65-67), but who are not in receipt of a full retirement pension, continue to have an obligation to pay compulsory insurance contributions during their employment. This enables them to complete additional important seafaring periods and benefit from the financial security provided by the Social Insurance for Seafarers.
Why it makes Sense to continue to be a member of the Social Insurance for Seafarers after the age of 65
The Social Insurance for Seafarers benefits catalogue also includes “benefits after attaining the statutory retirement age”. This provides for the seaman receiving an additional monthly benefit for a period of 24 months after he has attained his statutory retirement age. Not all of the seafarers can prove that they have completed the required seafaring periods when they reach the statutory retirement age. This means that they do not have an entitlement to benefits from the Social Insurance for Seafarers at that time. It therefore makes sense to continue to pay contributions so that there is an entitlement to the benefit after the statutory retirement age has been attained.
Information and Advice on all aspects for the Seaman
Being well informed is important. The experts from the Knappschaft-Bahn-See Social Insurance for Seafarers are able to provide information and advice.
We provide information on uncompleted seafaring periods and calculate how long the seaman shall have to work after he has attained the statutory retirement age, in order to complete these periods.
Paid Contributions cannot be Reimbursed
Contributions that are paid into the Social Insurance for Seafarers cannot be reimbursed. Whether a seaman has met the statutory insurance conditions for benefits or not is irrelevant in this regard.
Voluntary insurance cannot be taken out in the Social Insurance for Seafarers in order to meet the statutory insurance conditions.
This is new: the Social Insurance for Seafarers is now there for most of the seafarers
Everything used to be better? Not at all! Since the beginning of the Social Insurance for Seafarers, some seafarers were excluded from the insurance for many reasons. The result was that not all of the seamen were able to benefit from this special insurance.
This was a great financial risk for the seafarers concerned. The gap in the provision for old-age that opened up between them terminating their employment in seafaring and the commencement of their full old-age pension was often large. If the Social Insurance for Seafarers had not stood in, the financial situation would have been “serious”. An additional financial protection was also not possible in cases where the seafarer became unemployed as from the age of 56. The payment of additional benefits at retirement age were not conceivable.
This all changed with effect from 21 April 2015: the pension insurance expanded its statutory provisions and reorganised the compulsory insurance for seafarers (§ 137b paras. 2a and 2b of Vol. VI of the German social security code (SGB VI)). The Social Insurance for Seafarers has been there for most of the seafarers since then and their gap in the provision for old-age has been “closed”.
How these Seafarers Join the Social Insurance for Seafarers
The Social Insurance for Seafarers is now open for all seafarers who work on a so-called “authority ship“, a ship with a public authority employer.
How these Seafarers Join the Social Insurance for Seafarers
- Nothing changes for seafarers on an “authority ship“ that were insured by the Social Insurance for Seafarers prior to 21 April 2015. All new seafaring employees on these “authority ships“ are insured by the Social Insurance for Seafarers.
- The employer, i.e. the public authority, has to file an application for membership in the Social Insurance for Seafarers on behalf of seafarers that work on an “authority ship”. This application is then valid for all of the seafarers that it employees.
Note: as the employer is not under an obligation to do so however, it is in the interest of the seaman that he asks his employer to file this application.