MLC has now come into force

There is no doubt 20 August 2013 will become a milestone in maritime history with the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) coming into force. But what does it mean for you?

snowbird-crew-250pxOn the surface, all MLC does is consolidate and update 37 existing ILO conventions, from Minimum Age (Sea) Convention (1920) to Seafarers' Hours of Work and the Manning of Ships Convention (1996).

As most of the regulations already exist, one could think that the impact of MLC is minimal. However apart from some substantial updates on employment, accommodation/catering and social and medical welfare, probably the biggest change is the enforcement of the Code.

Enforcement as part of Port State Control

The Paris Memorandum of Understanding has been amended to include the MLC as a relevant instrument. Thus, it makes MLC requirements officially subject to Port State Control (PSC), including the possibility of more detailed inspections and the possibility of detention of the vessel/yacht in serious cases of non-compliance.

There will be a pragmatic approach to the implementation of the additional PSC requirements. The ILO has requested Port States to allow all vessels to operate without an MLC Certificate (and Declaration of Compliance) for the first year. Only members of the Paris MoU who have ratified the MLC on or before 20 August are entitled to conduct PSC inspections (including MLC requirements) from today onwards. This will apply to the following yacht relevant Port States: Spain, Cyprus, Croatia.

See also the Parios MoU press release.

Ships and large yachts from non-ratifying States should not receive any more favourable treatment than ships from States that have ratified the Convention.

The effect for crew members

What does it mean for you as a crew member working on a superyacht? MLC is also known as ‘The Seafarer’s Bill of Rights’; by its origin and by its intent MLC 2006 is a human rights document.

It prescribes a variety of seafarers’ protections in terms of work and living conditions, terms of employment, health care, social security, and related matters. All present employment contracts will become null and void on MLC implementation and will have to be replaced by seafarers’ employment agreements (SEA), with mandatory prescribed particulars of conditions of employment.

What is also fundamental to the Convention is that each seafarer has a right to be informed of their rights. This will include the right of each seafarer to be advised that he/she should consider their social security status, and should determine whether nationality or residency or domicile obligates contributions to a social security system, or whether a voluntary or private scheme is preferred.

Doehle Yachts has written an excellent guide containing the details on how MLC will affect superyachts.

However The Seafarer’s Bill of Rights also contains some unintended consequences for yachts which have the potential to jeopardise the future of the superyacht industry. The Professional Yachting Association (PYA) has been lobbying the ILO to explain these issues.

The UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), in close co-operation with the MLC Large Yacht Working Group, concluded a set of substantially equivalent requirements providing acceptable solutions for large yachts with regards to MLC Title 3 (Accommodation)

Recruitment agencies

Many yacht crew recruitment agencies have already or are currently applying for MLC compliance. Our partner, Viking Recruitment, has been awarded the first MCA audited ILO MLC2006 Declaration of Conformity to a Seafarer Recruitment and Placement Service within the UK.

The MLC Code

The MLC Code contained within the overarching MLC Convention consists of five ‘titles’:
Title 1: Minimum requirements for seafarers to work on a ship
Title 2: Conditions of employment
Title 3: Accommodation, recreational facilities, food and catering
Title 4: Health protection, medical care, welfare and social security protection

Title 5: Compliance and enforcement

For each title, there are general standards, which are further specified in mandatory Regulations (list A) as well as Guidelines (List B).

MLC will become a pillar for this industry, similar to STCW, MARPOL or SOLAS. The UK ratified the MLC convention on 7 August 2013. As of today the convention was ratified by 47 states representing 73% of world’s tonnage.

20 August 2013

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