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Income Tax Guide for Indian Seafarer (Merchant Navy)

    1. Meaning of seafarer
    2. How seafarer earn
    3. Income Tax on seafarer

Meaning of Seafarer

A sailor, seaman, mariner or a seafarer is a person who navigates water bone vessels or assists as a crew member in their operation and maintenance.

Seafarer holds a variety of ranks and professions, each of which carries unique responsibilities which are integral to the successful operation of an ocean-going vessel. A common deck crew for a ship includes Captain / Master, Chief Officer/ Chief mate, Second officer/ Second mate, Able seaman, Ordinary seaman, Deck cadets etc. A common engine crew will include Chief Engineer, 2nd Engineer, 3rd Engineer, 4th Engineer (optional), Engine Cadet, Fitter, Motorman, Oiler etc. Other than this saloon staff will comprise of Chief Cook and General Stewart but the number and rank of crew members serving on a ship will vary according to the size of the vessel, trade area of the vessel, Minimum Safe Manning certificate, administration etc.

How seafarer earns

Seafarer generally receives remuneration in the form of salaries from the companies.

Income Tax on seafarer

The taxability of salary received by a seafarer is based on the residential status of the seafarer.

Resident Seafarer

The salary received by a resident seafarer will be taxable as per the laws of the Income tax department. No special exemption is available.

Non-Resident Seafarer

The salary of a non-resident seafarer will not be included in the total taxable income of the seafarer.

Meaning of Non-Resident Seafarer

An individual is said to be Non-Resident Seafarer if he is outside India for 184 days or more during the financial year (185 days or more in case of leap year).

Calculation of period outside India

Stamping dates in the passport is the basic criteria for calcaultion of period outside India. Generally, passport dates are used when you join and sign off from ship outside India.

However when you join or sign off from India then the CDC dates shall be used for calculation of period outside India.


    1. Calculation will be done in the above manner for Indian Flag Ship or Foreign Flag Ship.
    2. Sum of all the period (which satisfies above conditions) should be used when there are multiple voyages in a single financial year. For example, if there are 2 voyage for a period of 100 days and 90 days during FY 2016-17 then the period outside India will be 190 Days.
    3. The period of the voyage should be calculated considering the financial year. For example, if a voyage started on 01 Dec 2016 and end on 01 May 2017 then the period outside Indian will be from 01 Dec 2016 to 31 March 2017 for the FY 2016-17 & from 01 April 2017 to 01 May 2017 for the FY 2017-18.
    4. Both the stamping date (starting and ending) will be considered as date outside India. For example, if the starting stamp date 01 April 2017 and ending stamp date is 30 April 2017 then the period outside India shall be 30 days..
    5. If a ship spent time in Indian territorial waters then it will be counted as period outside Indian if it is part of the eligible voyage.

As per Notification No. 70/2015/ F.No.142 /12/2015-TPL, period beginning on the date entered into the Continuous Discharge Certificate (CDC) in respect of joining the ship by the individual for the eligible voyage and ending on the date entered into the Continuous Discharge Certificate in respect of signing off by that individual from the ship in respect of such voyage.

“Eligible voyage” shall mean a voyage undertaken by a ship engaged in the carriage of passengers or freight in international traffic where-

(i) for the voyage having originated from any port in India, has as its destination any port outside India; and

(ii) for the voyage having originated from any port outside India, has as its destination any port in India.

Other related things:-

    1. If a person status is non-resident for one of the sources then he will be treated as non-resident for all the sources of income.
    2. Interest earned on NRE saving bank account is exempt from Tax for all the individual.

Note:- As per Circular No. 13/2017 issued by Central Board of Direct Taxes, salary accrued to a non-resident seafarer for services rendered outside India on a foreign ship shall not be included in the total income merely because the said salary has been credited in NRE account maintained with an Indian bank by the seafarer.

This circular specifically clarify if below conditions are met then the salary received will not be included in the total income of the individual 

    1. Non-Resident seafarer
    2. Service rendered outside India
    3. Foreign Ship
    4. Credited to NRE Bank account

However, it does not mean if you have received a salary from an Indian flagship then it is taxable as above circular is silent in this case. The above circular is just a clarification issue by CBDT for a specific condition.


About Rohit Agarwal

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  1. Krishikesh sarvankar

    Hello Mr. Rohit am a chef in cruise lines based in USA which carriers Panama flag my sign on and sign off is out for India and mostly I spend 34weeks (236 days approx) out of India I do have a NRE bank account here and I am resident of Maharashtra and do have a CDC book do I need to make a ITR and some years before it was not compulsory for cruise ship seafarers we make a cdc but now it is compulsory so I don’t have the dates marked on my CDC book but I do have it on my passport. I question is do I need to make ITR if yes then will the dates(sign on and sign off) on my passport will help me instead of CDC.

    • Rohit Pithisaria

      CDC is conclusive evidence for working on a ship so it is better to have the proper stamps on CDC for sign in and sign off. We suggest you to file your ITR every year. Yes, the stamps on the passport will definitely help you to prove your status as Non-Resident.

  2. If i m sailing for more then 185 days outside India, and my salary is deposited in a saveing account, in such a case m i eligible to pay tax?

    • Rohit Pithisaria

      No, tax is not applicable even you receive money in your normal saving account but you should use only NRE account for salary receipts to save yourself from any income tax scrutiny.

  3. Santosh kumar

    I’m seafarers working on foreign ship,,,I want home loan from bank,,,bank demand income tax return receipt,,,,what I have to do ,,please advice

    • Rohit Pithisaria

      You can only file the return for the FY 2018-19. Generally, bank requires last 3 ITR for loan processing.

  4. What is tax implication on seafarer working on foreign vessel continuously plying in Indian coast. Foreign vessel got converted to coastal vessel to get HPCL Charter for 6 months.

  5. Melwyn Dsouza

    I am working offshore, earlier I was stationed in one location Qatar and I was able to complete my NRE days. Now I still can manage to complete the 184-185 days mark but revolved on installations including in Indian waters. Do working in Indian waters makes me eligible for taxation or am I exempted when I complete the 184-185 days mark. Note my salary is coming from UAE office into my NRE account.

    • Rohit Pithisaria

      Have you boarded and signed off from the ship from India coast? If not then you can shows yourself an NR.

  6. If the sea carer is outside the country for 177 days instead of 184 due to health reasons is he still required to pay tax for that financial year?

    • Rohit Pithisaria

      Yes, you will be considered as Indian Resident for the purpose of Income Tax and have to pay tax.

  7. What about seafarer’s working on foreign flag ships where the Voyage does not begin or terminate in any Indian Port ? The Voyage is then not eligible for Indian CDC status. Will in this case passport stamp be considered to calculate NRI days ?
    What happens when a Seafarer goes abroad for official work ? Visiting office? Attending courses etc ? Can we calculate those days in NRI status ?

    • Rohit Pithisaria

      CDC dates should be considered for calculating days out of India even on foreign flagships as it is conclusive proof of working on ships. If you are out of India for other purposes like visiting the office, attending courses etc. then it can be challenged by your Assessing Officer at the time of scrutiny.

  8. If I have completed NRE time as per CDC on Indian Flagship who deducted TDS us 194J…will my professional income will be taxable…as I am crew of an Indian ship and completed my NRE seatime by means of eligible voyage..

    • Rohit Pithisaria

      No, if you have completed NRE status then the income will be tax-free and you can claim complete amount as refund.


    Which ITR form to be filled for FY 18-19 for NRI seafarer who have only income from other sources- interests from FDs/ LIC annuity/and
    MIS interests….


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