Maritime Labour Convention 2006: The industry's opposition

21 January 2015
If the MLC 2006's rules on crew accommodation aren’t revised, yachts such as Twizzle may not be commercially viable.

The impact of the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC) legislation on crew accommodation and future yacht design is discussed in our section Maritime Labour Convention.
Here representatives of the yachting and maritime industries’ professional bodies express their concerns over the MLC.

Maritime Labour Convention: The industry speaks out

Theo J. Hooning, Secretary General, SYBAss

The Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC) is a regulation developed by International Labour Organisation and International Maritime Organisation (ILO/IMO), the starting point of which is to secure the wellbeing of captains and crew members on commercial vessels, including superyachts.

The principle behind the MLC is fully supported by the Superyacht Builders Association (SYBAss) as it is in the interest of the entire superyacht industry.

The challenge we face is that the regulation was developed without any input from the superyacht industry itself. In fact, the word ‘yacht’ or ‘superyacht’ is never mentioned in any of the ILO documents related to the development of the MLC from 1999 to 2007. As a result, the superyacht industry is now confronted with a regulation that is based on commercial shipping and completely ignores the unique character and use of superyachts.

The failure by regulators to take the superyacht industry into account proves once again how important it is to assert the interests of our sector. This is one of the main reasons behind the foundation of SYBAss in 2007.

SYBAss is currently working closely together with other industry bodies such as the Professional Yachting Association (which represents captains and crew) to find practical solutions to the MLC. All organisations involved, including the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), share the same objectives and recognise the urgency of this problem.

We are at the moment developing a study which shows exactly the impact of the regulations on the layout of the interiors of superyachts. This study will be presented by PYA to the ILO. We hope that the way in which the rules are due to be applied will be changed before early 2012 when the regulation itself becomes mandatory.

Andrew Schofield, PYA President

The PYA (Professional Yachtsman’s Association) is pleased to provide an update to its Members on the work the Association has been doing on the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Maritime Labour Convention 2006.

What has the PYA been doing about MLC 2006?

Over the last 18 months, the PYA has dedicated a lot of time, effort and financial resources toward trying to find solutions to implementing MLC in the yacht industry. The majority of these efforts have been in attending the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) Large Yacht subgroup (LYSG) meetings in Southampton.

These meetings have also been attended by many of our social partners, International Council of Marine Industry Associations (ICOMIA), Super Yacht Builders Association (SYBAss), Mediterranean Yacht Brokers Association (MYBA), British Marine Federation (BMF) and some yacht designers. More recently these meetings have also included the members of the Tripartite Working Group (TWG). The TWG is the body that reports to the ILO.

PYA welcomes MLC, as this ILO convention aims to improve the working conditions and terms of employment for all seafarers. However, certain provisions within MLC, specifically the size of crew accommodation, pose a significant problem to the yacht industry.

Why does the accommodation pose problems?

The LYSG identified that whilst the MLC was written with merchant ships in mind, there was insufficient room within the legislation to provide the yacht industry with solutions that will safeguard jobs within our industry.

What action has the PYA taken to try to preserve jobs in the yacht industry?

The PYA arranged for a special meeting at the offices of the ILO in February 2010, to discuss with them the specific problems relating to the yacht industry and how it differed from the merchant industry. As a result of this meeting the PYA has agreed to undertake a number of studies that will help the ILO understand better the issues facing the yacht industry.

The first study is to be conducted on behalf of the PYA by our social partners, namely, SYBAss, ICOMIA and MYBA and some yacht designers who are providing data and technical studies about yachts.

The second study is a social study to be carried out by the PYA in conjunction with the Seafarers International Research Centre (SIRC), based at Cardiff University. This study will be ready for distribution near the end of April and further details of how yachtsmen can participate will be published shortly.

Members of the ILO have also accepted an offer from the PYA to visit the South of France, to see first-hand the yacht industry and to talk to crew face-to-face. The PYA has also had meetings with other flag states and will be able to report on the progress made over the next few months.

Due to its non-commercial status, the PYA is in a unique position to voice the concerns of the yacht industry to policy makers and the PYA is committed to continued collaboration with these policy makers until the issues are resolved.

Detailed updates will be posted on the PYA members website on a regular basis as we continue to make progress on MLC.

Mirabella V is the largest sloop in the world.

Henk de Vries, Feadship, De Vries

Feadship has been following the development of the rules during the last few years.

We feel the operation of yachts and crew life on board is completely different from commercial ships which are sailing continuously, a feeling which is also shared by PYA – the professional yachtsmen’s association; something which is not reflected in the rules.

On larger yachts above 3,000GT the rules can actually lead to strange situations. For example two-person cabins might need to be replaced by four-person cabins to provide sufficient cabin area. However, the rules will have most influence on the smaller yachts where strict compliance with the rules is unrealistic. Larger yachts can in general comply with the rules.

Most Feadships, especially above 60m, already comply with minimum crew cabin area. A point of attention is still the definition of the ‘crew cabin area’ and definition of ‘officers’. Assuming the ILO will come up with a realistic definition we have the opinion these rules can provide a level playing field in the industry for yachts between 500GT and 3,000GT.


The MLC was developed without any participation of the superyacht sector and indeed it makes no specific recognition of yachts in its provisions.

However national administrations that have national superyacht industries were present during its development, including the UK’s MCA. Regrettably the industry was not consulted at all during this development phase and is thus now facing its consequences.

However, MLC is a reality to which the industry will have to adjust and will support through its designs and construction. In addition, it will also bring certain benefits since builders will now have an international standard for crew accommodation, which they can use as a basis for discussions with prospective clients.

It is evident that the crew space entitlements are so generous as to bring into question the whole viability of many parts of our industry. We all recognise that the ability to charter is a fundamental factor in many a prospective owner’s decision on whether to build or not. Consequently there needs to be an equitable balance between providing a reasonable level of accommodation for the crew and the guest accommodation that would make the yacht an attractive prospect for charter and be economically sustainable.

International Council of Marine Industry Associations (ICOMIA), the leisure marine industry’s international trade association, with its relevant national association members such as the Netherlands’ HISWA, Italy’s UCINA and the British Marine Federation (BMF) are working closely with the specialist sector associations of the Professional Yachting Association (PYA), Superyacht Builders Association (SYBAss), the Worldwide Yachting Association (MYBA), and the UK’s MCA to find a solution to the application of this convention prior to its expected entry into force at the end of 2010, with application by the end of 2011.

A number of studies are underway including some led by the PYA who have an important emerging relationship with the ILO. We expect to present the study’s conclusions by mid-year to interested national administrations coordinated by the MCA prior to the latter lodging an opinion with the ILO on how the sector will apply this convention.

Derek Smith, Large Yacht Solutions, Operations Director

At this time it is a very sensitive and difficult issue to which it is not possible to provide a definitive answer. Yachting was not represented or consulted during the development of the ILO’s consolidated Maritime Labor Convention (MLC).

It does not appear feasible to apply to yachts, particularly below 500GT, due mainly to the issue of prescriptive cabin size unless a means of achieving substantial equivalence is found.

The issue is of great concern to many builders and we continue to work on it through our participation in the MYBA Yacht Management Committee, who are represented on the MCA Working Group on this issue for yachting.

Editor’s note
As we went to print the ILO accepted the PYA’s invitation for a paid fact-finding trip to the South of France, which involved introducing key people to the experience of yachting.

Originally published: May 2010