MLC Talks Begin

9 December 2008 By Claire Griffiths

Industry representatives have been putting their heads together this week in the UK to work out ways to incorporate new international legislation into the existing MCA Large Yacht Code (LY2). The “Subgroup of the tripartite working group on UK implementation of the Maritime Labour Convention” (ooofff, say that again), was chaired by Mary Martyn, head of the Seafarer Safety and Health Branch of MCA.

These talks focused specifically on how to incorporate the accommodation provisions of the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) 2006 into LY2, addressing the key issues such as crew cabin space, cabin location, etc. Eleven industry representatives met around the table to try to get their heads around the new requirements, including PYA, SYBA, ICOMIA, MYBA, Royal Huisman, Heesen and the Cayman Islands Shipping Registry.

Mary Martyn explained that the “nitty gritty” debate was positive and the overall conclusion was possibly to use the option of “substantial equivalence” to incorporate these new international requirements. “That's the thinking at the moment but it’s only a proposal in principle for the time being.” Substantial compliance would mean that yachts that comply with LY2 would be exempt from adopting the new regulations (which would be covered by LY2 anyway).

The key aim of the MLC is to protect and improve living conditions for crew on commercial vessels (e.g. cargo ships) – but charter yachts over 200 gross tons also will be obliged to comply following the MLC ruling by the International Labour Organization (ILO), the UN specialized agency that seeks the promotion of social justice and internationally recognized human and labor rights.

The MLC will come into force one year after 30 countries with a minimum 33 percent of world gross tonnage register their ratifications. The EU is encouraging all Member States to ratify the Convention by December 2010, aiming for implementation in December 2011.

The main areas where amendments to LY2 are needed to reflect the MLC are crew accommodation and survey and certification. Amendment is only necessary for yachts built after the MLC enters into force. For yachts built before the entry into force of the new Convention, existing ILO standards, already reflected in LY2, continue to apply.

So, is the yachting industry being once again bulldozed by bureaucracy? And while the ILO intentions are all good, did it overlook the impact the legislation would have on the yachting industry? Martyn suggests not, “I remember large yachts were mentioned during ILO debates and we are talking about a massive and diverse group of seafaring employees.”

That’s why industry representatives are grappling with the 96-page document to spot any anomalies that could adversely affect the industry or prove difficult/impossible to apply. Industry associations are currently discussing and considering their positions and are expected to pronounce their views in the coming weeks. Watch this space.

The next meeting of this Subgroup will take place on February 3, 2009 with proposals agreed for yachts due by the middle of next year, so shipbuilders in particular will know of the proposed new crew accommodation standards required. The implications for new sailing yachts are expected to test the brainpower of ship designers, but as Evert Van Dishoeck, commercial director of Royal Huisman, explains, “This subgroup is very much in ‘working mode’ and it’s really too early to say anything yet. We can say more in February.”

But Martyn adds, “People are designing yachts now and they need to know and we do understand that.”