Maritime Labour Convention 2006: First look
by Benjamin Maltby
Beyond the physical aspects, there are measures to protect crewmembers by obliging owners to provide material assistance and support from the financial consequences of sickness, injury or death occurring in connection with their employment. These requirements expressly do not affect any other legal remedies available to crewmembers.
As a minimum, owners will be liable to bear the costs of sickness and injury, and to compensate in the event of the death or long-term disability of crewmembers due to an occupational injury, illness or hazard.
Owners will also have to pay for medical care, including treatments, medicines and equipment, and board and lodging away from home until the crewmember has recovered, or until any incapacity is declared permanent.
Doubtless the marine insurance sector will provide a specific MLC-compliant product to cover these risks, but most will be covered already by standard protection & indemnity insurance.
Another duty against which insurance may have to be taken is the owners duty to compensate crewmembers for unemployment if the yacht is lost. Flag states may limit this to two months worth. It remains to be seen how this will be introduced in the context of companies owning no other assets.
One area that will prevent timewasting and aggravation for owners is the requirement for all crewmembers to have a written employment agreement, setting out the terms of their engagement. All too often, owners and managers presently dispense with the need for employment contracts (in an atmosphere of goodwill) only for misunderstandings and disputes to develop later.
While there is a need for state-approved crew agreements for most Red Ensign yachts, this requirement is rarely enforced on yachts. Flag and port states may pay closer attention once it becomes a ubiquitous requirement.
Which seafarers will be affected?
The MLC will affect all crewmembers, employed or engaged in any capacity on-board.
While common sense suggests this should not extend to navigational pilots, surveyors, yard employees and the like, this remains to be seen.
What needs to be done to comply?
As complying with the rules, yachts over 500GT engaged in international voyages or operating in ports outside the yachts flag state will have to carry a Maritime Labour Certificate and Declaration of Maritime Labour Compliance, setting out the owners plans for ensuring compliance with the applicable national laws and regulations.
Flag states will have to review these plans and certify that they are being implemented. Captains will be responsible for carrying out the plans and keeping records of compliance.
The owner for the purposes of the MLC may be the actual owner, the manager, bareboat charterer, or whichever party has assumed responsibility for the operation of the yacht from the owner or otherwise agreed to take over the duties and responsibilities imposed by the MLC.