The employment relationship between a seafarer and their employer remains in force even when the seafarer is on shore leave, according to a court case in the Philippines. Shore leave is the period when a seafarer is allowed to take a break from their ship while it is docked in port. International maritime regulations state that every seafarer is entitled to shore leave for their physical and mental well-being. Not allowing seafarers to go on shore leave can have a negative impact on their mental health.
Leaving the ship without permission during working hours can result in disciplinary measures, including dismissal. Absence without leave (AWOL) is one of the grounds for dismissal, and it includes leaving the ship without permission. Desertion, on the other hand, refers to leaving or remaining absent from duty with the intent to not return. When a seafarer commits an act of AWOL, they may be penalized with dismissal and be responsible for the cost of repatriation.
Denying shore leave to seafarers is considered a violation of their basic human rights. In a court case, the Supreme Court ruled that dismissal is too harsh a penalty for disobedience if there is no evidence of a wrongful and perverse mental attitude. Seafarers who look forward to stepping on land after spending weeks or months at sea should be granted shore leave for their well-being.