Until now, maritime has been the only UK industry where national minimum wage laws do not apply.
But a switch which came into effect today means more than 10,000 seafarers across Britain will no longer be undercut.
The shake-up will help staff working on domestic ferries operating around the UK, boats operating around oil wells, gas platforms and wind farms, and cargo routes between British ports.
Rail, Maritime and Transport union general secretary Mick Cash said: “This is a welcome development at a tough time for seafarers in the UK and around the world.
“Entitlement to national minimum wage pay rates on domestic routes puts seafarers on a par with land-based workers and represents a victory for RMT’s campaigning on seafarers’ rights.
“Enforcement of this improved protection for seafarers is key to it increasing employment for UK ratings across the shipping industry, from the ferries sector to growth areas like offshore wind, decommissioning and coastal freight.”
Under current wage rules, workers aged 25 and over are paid £8.72 an hour, those aged 21 to 24 receive £8.20, employees aged from 18 to 20 get £6.45 and workers under 18 receive just £4.55.
The legal pay floor is applied based on where work is carried out – meaning it does not matter where a vessel is registered or where the employer is based.
However, the overhaul will not apply to international sea-going vessels entering or leaving UK ports.
Welcoming the extension of the pay law to the industry, Living Wage Foundation director Laura Gardiner said: “This is positive news for the maritime sector and for the thousands of workers it employs.
“Increasing protections for those essential workers, like seafarers, who have kept our country going during the pandemic is welcome.
“But with maritime operatives facing below-average pay levels despite the highly skilled nature of their work, the minimum wage is only a first step.
“To truly support workers and build back better from this crisis, we will need to see a Real Living Wage that covers the cost of living for seafarers and their families.”
Maritime Minister Robert Courts said: “This country’s rich maritime history is built upon its extraordinary workers.
“Ensuring a fair wage for our seafarers, especially the hundreds of thousands who have kept this country going through the pandemic, means that UK workers are not priced out of jobs by employers.
“This is just the start – our Maritime 2050 strategy clearly sets the vision to see a fairer global maritime industry and the UK is determined to lead by example.”