Hamburg: new working hours regulation under German law

By Eckehard Volz

In Germany, new rules specifically designed to regulate the limits of working hours in the offshore industry came into effect on 1 August 2013. The Regulation on Working Time in relation to Offshore Work (Offshore-Arbeitszeitverordnung [OAZV]) grants extensive exceptions to the German Working Time Act (Arbeitszeitgesetz) and also to the new German Maritime Labour Act (Seearbeitsgesetz) in order to accommodate the particular circumstances associated with the construction, operation and maintenance of wind turbines at sea. These distinctive circumstances are, inter alia, a distance to the coast line of up to 100km, a long journey of several hours on board the ships to the offshore site and extreme weather conditions due to stronger winds and high waves.

The OAZV permits a more flexible regime with regard to working time schedules and simultaneously provides corresponding labour protection measures for the employees. Prior to the OAZV, operators had to obtain special licences on a case-by-case basis to extend the general limits of working hours.

The OAZV applies in German territorial waters and in the German Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), but is limited to (i) crew members of German-flagged vessels and (ii) any other employee not being part of the vessel’s crew who is performing ‘offshore work’, which according to the German Working Time Act is defined as ‘special activities to erect, modify or operate buildings, artificial islands or any other installation at sea’. Crew members of foreign flagged vessels remain subject to the relevant flag state regime under the general maritime rules, even if laying in a German port…

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