Nautilus International issued an urgent warning in July 2017 to members serving on superyachts in the south of France following 'an alarming increase' in the criminalisation of crew members in recent months.
The Union says seafarers have been facing fines of up to €10,000 and even imprisonment or offences being recorded against an officer's certificate of competency, as a consequence of cases involving prosecutions for anchoring in prohibited areas or seemingly minor infringements of the regulations.
In a message to members, Nautilus strategic organiser Danny McGowan said: 'Some of the Nautilus members that have been called to court have been investigated for anchoring in prohibited areas, despite weather conditions dictating that the chosen anchoring position was the only safe place.
'Other Nautilus members - particularly masters - have been investigated and appeared in court for the actions of their subordinates. As we all know, owners or guests can often exert pressure on masters to breach rules, with the promise that any punitive fines will be covered by them. Some of this pressure can also be felt by other officers and crew.'
As we all know, owners or guests can often exert pressure on masters to breach rules, with the promise that any punitive fines will be covered by them
He cautioned members against expectations that fines will be covered by the owner -especially in cases where prosecution could lead to custodial sentences.
Mr McGowan said the increase in such cases - often being brought at extremely short notice - could reflect the 'state of emergency' across France following recent terrorist attacks.
He said that Nautilus has provided members with support from its special 24/7 helpline and a lawyer from the Union's worldwide network of maritime legal experts.
'Thanks to this unique service, members have been provided with legal representation in court within as little as 12 hours,' he added.
'Nautilus International is the only trade union and professional organisation that can assist its members in this way. As the regulatory authorities appear to be stepping up enforcement, officers and crew across the world should join us to ensure they remain protected, before it is too late.'