MLC, 2006: A Year Later

11 September 2014 By Hillary Hoffower

“I see nothing good from this,” commented one member in Dockwalk’s Maritime Labour Convention (MLC), 2006 poll, in which respondents weighed in on how MLC, 2006 has affected their living and working conditions as crew. This thought reflects the dissent that erupted among the yachting industry in the years leading up to MLC, 2006’s implementation in August 2013. While the Convention’s intention is to promote decent working conditions by focusing on better crew accommodations and crew social welfare, the industry feared the seemingly complicated crew accommodations mandate would be impossible to comply with and would send yacht owners selling.

So how has this seafarers’ bill of rights fared now that it’s been in effect for nearly a year?

One key addition brought about by MLC, 2006 is the mandated Seafarers Employment Agreement. Only 44 percent of poll respondents have an MLC-compliant crew contract. Thirty-six percent do because they’re on a commercial yacht and eight percent do even though they’re on a private vessel.

Of those polled, 52 percent work on a commercial vessel, and 40 percent of them said that MLC, 2006 has been fully implemented on board. Forty-eight percent of respondents work on private vessels, and just one person said that their private vessel has incorporated changes from MLC, 2006, with 64 percent whose vessels have not incorporated any changes. Fifty-six percent of all respondents said that their vessel hasn’t been inspected to MLC standards.

Regardless of whether the vessels have implemented or incorporated the MLC, the changes brought forth by the Convention don’t seem to have hugely altered operating procedures on board for some, but there is a caveat.

“[It’s] not possible on smaller vessels,” one bosun maintained. “[It’s] not realistic for [a] 30-meter busy charter boat due to level of service, guest pressure, captain pressure [and] management pressure. Captain tries hard for hours of rest, but would need two full crew to make that happen. Average ninety-five to one hundred hours a week, instead of MLC [instead of mandated hours].”

One captain commented, “[It makes] us work even harder than before.”

While these opinions mirror the general consensus among respondents, another captain recognizes some alterations, but said it’s really just more paperwork for the size of the yacht. Only two respondents said they have seen changes.

“Record hours of rest, and three/two holidays per working month,” said one captain.

After all, the MLC does require a 14-hour work limit in any 24-hour period, statutory holidays and two-and-a-half days of leave per month to be taken every year. So does this mean that the Convention has improved conditions for crew?

“Not really…It’s not like we are working third-world ships,” said a chief officer. “Hours of rest are still the biggest obstacle; it’s impossible for captain and crew to implement this properly in our business, it’s not like we can tell the boss or charter guest he can’t have this or that cause the crew need their required hours of rest.”

Only four people gave a definitive yes, although two responses came with an added exception, including “[it’s] not really adapted to yachts” and “for those compliant.”

“Maybe on [a] big ship, but definitely not [on a] yacht, and it never will,” said one engineer. “[If] we don’t like it we get fired.”

For better or for worse, there is no denying that the Convention has brought significant changes to the industry. Only a year in, the effects seem to be happening in slow progression. Where do you think we’ll be a year from now?

Check out the poll responses here.