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Maritime Labour Convention 2006: First look

Maritime Labour Convention 2006: First look

How will it be enforced?

All ships (including yachts) flagged anywhere will be subject to the MLC, and may be inspected in any country that has ratified the convention, through the established port state control system. Ships that do not meet the minimum standards may be detained by the port authorities.

Certification will add to the paperwork, but presenting it should help avoid official port inspections and corresponding delays.

There will also be on-board and shore-based complaint procedures for crew, which may serve to encourage whistle-blowing.

What can be done about it?

As port authorities cannot treat yachts flagged in non-MLC countries any less favourably, it is hard to see how flagging in a non-MLC country will assist, given that the convention is enjoying widespread support.

Crewmembers will also get used to working on compliant yachts, so non-compliance may only make it harder to find and keep a good crew, which may affect resale value.

There is flexibly built into the MLC, and owners should ensure flag states understand their point of view. It is acceptable, under the MLC, for provisions to be brought in using ‘substantially equivalent’ regulations to the convention’s – as the UK’s Maritime & Coastguard Agency did when writing the Large Yacht Code to make SOLAS safety provisions more palatable to yacht owners.

There are mechanisms to build change into the MLC, but the process is protracted.


The MLC was overdue as a result of the horrendous conditions some seafarers have had to put up with on rusty trading ships. It will eliminate the range of differing and confusing national laws, but that will be little consolation

Benjamin Maltby is an English barrister with Palma-based consultant MatrixLloyd, providing impartial guidance on all aspects of large yacht ownership and operation. He began his career as a lawyer with an International Group P&I Club, before practising with the leading Mediterranean marine and offshore law firm.

Originally published: December 2008.

MatrixLloyd, Bugsy Gedlek and Dreamstime

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