Nautilus International is a member-led, democratic organisation which offers members a range of opportunities to participate in the democracy of the Union, by voting on Union policy, and to elect lay representatives, members of the Council and the general secretary.

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Nautilus members are encouraged to stand for election to represent their colleagues and participate in the governance of the Union. There are two ways members can do this, i.e. by standing for election as a lay representative, or for the Council.

Lay representatives

Nautilus has three types of lay representative: liaison officers (UK), Partnership at Work delegates (UK) and senior executives (NL - this is a less formal role than the UK equivalent but serves many of the same functions). Some lay reps are elected by colleagues at the company where they work and others volunteer for their role. UK lay reps serve for a fixed term, normally three years.

Membership of the Council

There are 32 seats on the Council of the Union. Any full member of Nautilus International can stand for election to the Council, as long as they follow the formal nomination process, which involves gaining a set number of signatures from other Union members. Members of the Council are elected to serve a four-year term.

Elections for placements on the Council are held on a rolling basis, which means that half the Council places come up for election every two years. Candidates stand for election to the Council in categories related to their area of work:

  • Navigating officers (including shipmasters)
  • Engineers (including ETOs/electrical/radio officers)
  • Ratings
  • Other particular categories (including hotel services and shore-based members)

Results of recent elections and a list of current Council members are available in this section.

Nomination forms and deadlines for particular elections to the Council will be made available in the members’ area of this website. They will also be published in the Nautilus Telegraph and sent to individual Union members in the post. Elections to the Council are overseen by an independent scrutineer.

General secretary

The general secretary is the most senior employee of Nautilus International, and the only one who is elected. The general secretary is the chief executive officer and responsible under the Rules for ensuring the proper administration of the Union.

The general secretary is elected every four years. Nomination forms and deadlines for the election will be made available via this website, published in the Nautilus Telegraph and sent to individual Union members in the post. Due to restrictions imposed by UK legislation, general secretary elections are carried out via a postal vote only. They are overseen by an independent scrutineer.


The General Meeting is the supreme policy-making body of the Union. At these meetings decisions are made which affect all three branches of the Union. At National Branch Conferences the decisions made and issues debated are those which only affect that branch. Nautilus members are encouraged to attend these meetings and have a say in the way the Union operates and the issues it campaigns on.


In companies where Nautilus is the recognised union, Nautilus officials and lay representatives work with management to negotiate agreements on pay and conditions, known as Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBA) or Terms and Conditions of employment. Lay representatives and Union officials will consult with members to gather their aspirations for negotiations with the company and then seek to meet with company representatives to discuss a claim. When the company has made a formal offer, the Union will normally put this to members in the relevant bargaining group.

Members tell the Union by post, fax or email whether they want to accept or reject their company’s offer (or sections of it, depending on the offer). The basis of the feedback may lead to acceptance of this initial offer or further negotiations with the employer. The Union representatives may consult the bargaining group a number of times throughout the duration of the pay and conditions negotiations.

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Other votes

There are occasions where a major change to the Union’s policies or constitution requires a one-off vote of members. This is usually done by postal ballot, but there are some circumstances where the Rules allow for the vote to take place at a General Meeting or Branch Conference. An example of a one-off vote of members was the 2008 ballot in which members of Nautilus UK and Nautilus NL voted to join together to form Nautilus International.


Several times a year, Nautilus members are invited to have their say in surveys. Topics for these surveys have included workplace bullying and harassment, seafarer criminalisation, and cadets’ pay and conditions. The survey findings are reported to the Council, or National Committee if appropriate, so that members’ views can feed into the development and implementation of Union policy. The findings are also shared with other members, the wider shipping industry, and relevant government bodies through publication in the Nautilus Telegraph or in separate reports.

The Nautilus Telegraph

Union members are encouraged to contribute to the Telegraph, by writing letters or articles, or taking part in interviews. This forms part of the democratic process, as members’ views shared in this way are noted by the Union’s management and the Council, and therefore feed into the Nautilus governance and policy-making process.

Social Media

Members can also participate by 'liking' and commenting on stories and other posts on the Nautilus Facebook page, and following us @nautilusint on Twitter, retweeting our posts; and joining our LinkedIn special members' discussion forums for Women and Young Maritime Professionals. 


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