The need for residence permits for third-country nationals for offshore construction projects within German territorial waters has become a compliance issue for companies.
Fleet Hamburg advises companies on German employment law and in relation to resident/work permits and visas for their employees from third countries who are to be deployed in the context of offshore construction projects within the German territorial waters. Whether a residence permit is required by a third country national, be it as a member of the vessel’s crew or as an offshore worker, was decided by a landmark ruling of the Federal Administrative Court on 27 April 2021 - 1 C 13.19. Fleet Hamburg had successfully represented clients in the Administrative Court of Schleswig and obtained a ruling that crew members and offshore workers working on board a foreign-flagged offshore supply vessel have the benefit of the regulations applicable to seagoing vessels, thus eliminating the requirement to comply with resident/work permits and visas for the duration of the employment in Germany. On appeal, where Fleet Hamburg represented the respondent, the Federal Administrative Court overturned this ruling, with the consequence that a residence permit entitling the holder to work in Germany must be obtained by offshore workers, irrespective of their employment on board the vessel, before entering the country.
In the wake of this ruling, Fleet Hamburg campaigned intensively in favour of a concept whereby offshore workers and crew members in the wind energy industry are not seen as foreign workers. This was ultimately taken up by the German legislator and implemented as part of a series of pro-offshore “Easter Package” legislations in 2022. Due to the variety of offshore construction projects in the energy sector, other expanding industries such as dredging and the oil and gas industry have also now become the focus of the authorities. At Fleet Hamburg, we have lawyers with in-depth knowledge of the latest regulations on residence permits and visas that entitle the holder to work within German territorial waters. Our activities include support in the application process, but also representation against the authorities in the event of violations.