23 April 2014
26 Sep 2012

Seafaring standards: getting to grips with the MLC 2006

Finally, after a longer than expected international ratification process, on 23 August 2012, Russia and the Philippines became the last countries of 30 to ratify the Maritime Labour Convention 2006, setting in motion the 12-month run-up to its full implementation and some major changes for yacht crew. Melanie Langley of Moore Stephens, and Peter Southgate of Cayman Islands Shipping Registry share some of the implications of this legislation.

Melanie Langley, Moore Stephens

Hailed as a ‘seafarers’ bill of rights’, the strategic purpose of the MLC is to root out marginal operators of substandard vessels from the world’s oceans. One standard to measure is whether both conditions and protection for the world’s seafarers are as close as possible to those of workers ashore. And to their credit, the very best employers in the industry are already largely complying with the MLC (the 100 or so pages of the MLC can be downloaded here).


You must make sure that you understand clearly to what country you may be accountable



One of the great myths of working at sea in the superyacht industry has been that it is tax-free income and you don’t need to worry about income tax and social security/national insurance contributions. In fact, this was never the case and now, because of the MLC, you might find that your name now pops up in front of tax authorities more often than some people would like.

It is perfectly legal for owners and employers to pay you through places such as Guernsey so they do not have to deduct tax on your behalf, which leaves it up to you. But the country where you are domiciled or resident or even the country issuing your passport might be interested in why they haven’t been hearing from you lately, especially if you decide you need their health care or benefits.

So you must make sure that you understand clearly to what country you may be accountable, what forms or returns you must be submitting and to whom. Ideally a letter from the country of your nationality, the country where you have real estate, the country where you spend most of your leave time is a solid starting point.



Peter Southgate, Cayman Islands Shipping Registry

As the MLC is a significant convention covering many areas on board it is anticipated that the inspections will be quite time-consuming. However, with advance preparation this can be minimised. Effective shoreside preparation will greatly aid the efficiency of the inspection and it is vital that the DMLC Part II and supporting documents are in order.

Some of the most common areas that most will not be familiar with are set out below:
  • Health and safety - The inspector will look for evidence that procedures are in place for new health and safety areas required by MLC: i.e. arrangements are in place to protect crew from the harmful effects of noise, vibration and chemicals on board the ship; procedures are in place to advise the master on reporting occupational diseases to the Cayman Islands Shipping Registry (CISR).
  • Crew accommodation – For vessels for which the keel is laid after the convention comes into force, the crew accommodation standards will need to be assessed for compliance with convention requirements, including any substantial equivalence (such as that set out in LY3).
  • Minimum age - Review of the policy and procedures relating to the prohibition of the employment of crew under the age of 16, and for crew under the age of 18: i.e. night work; hours of work and rest; leave and repatriation; health and safety including health assessment, risk assessment and prohibition and restriction of certain types of work. Verified by document review and where appropriate on board verification.

Inspectors are empowered to ensure that any deficiency they find is remedied. Where an inspector has grounds to believe that deficiencies constitute a serious breach of the requirements of the MLC (including seafarers’ rights), or represent a significant danger to crew safety, health or security, the inspector is empowered to prohibit a ship from leaving port until actions are taken to remedy these deficiencies.

Find the full article in Issue 60 of The Crew Report.  

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