Sailor’s unfair dismissal case falls within UK jurisdiction, rules court

A shipping company failed in its bid to secure a ruling that an unfair dismissal claim from a former seaman fell outside UK jurisdiction. The Court of Appeal ruled recently, in the case of Diggins v Condor Marine Crewing Services, that the tribunal does have the jursidiction to hear a claim for unfair dismissal brought by the former against the latter.

Diggins, a former chief officer aboard a Condor Marine vessel, brought the unfair dismissal case in 2007. It was heard at Employment Tribunal, which held that it did not have jurisdiction to hear the claim. This was overturned at the Employment Appeal Tribunal, and Condor then took an appeal against that decision to the Court of Appeal.

Diggins, who was resident in Suffolk, worked two-week rosters on a ship which plied its trade between the Channel Islands and Portsmouth. The vessel is registered in Nassau in the Bahamas. These facts formed the basis of Condor’s case.

But, ruled Lord Justice Elias: “If one asks where this employee’s base is, there can only be one sensible answer – it is where his duty begins and where it ends. The company may have been based in Guernsey, but Diggins had no real connection with that place and he had even less with the Bahamas, where the ship is registered.

“I do not accept that the considerations of where the company operates or where the ship is registered are likely to have any significant influence on the question of where a particular employee is based… it seems to me that the base was in Great Britain.”

The unfair dismissal claim will now go ahead.

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