Maritime Labour Convention (MLC)

The Maritime Labour Convention came into full force in the United Kingdom in August 2014. The 'MLC 2006' sets forth minimum standards relating to the working and living rights of seagoing personnel.

Information in this section follows Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) guidance produced to help employers and seafarers meet Maritime Labour Convention regulations.

Maritime Labour Convention Exemptions

MLC regulations do not cover seafarers who are serving on certain kinds of vessels, including:

  • Fishing vessels
  • Naval auxiliaries and warships
  • Ships that navigate inland or in sheltered waters that are subject to port regulations
  • Traditional ships (e.g. dhow ships)

MLC Minimum Requirements

Under MLC rules, the minimum standards for seafarers working on a ship include a minimum age limit, a medical certification, and specific training and qualifications.

MLC Minimum Requirements

As a general rule, the minimum age for seafarers is sixteen (16). You would need to be at least eighteen years old to perform night work duties.

Some exceptions exist for:

Medical Certification

Having the appropriate seafarer medical certificate is a requirement under the regulations of MLC to work on ships at sea.

Training and Qualifications

According to the Maritime Labour Convention for seafarers, they need to be trained and qualified to perform their onboard duties, and receive:

  • Personal safety training for working on seagoing vessels.
  • Training conforming to International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, 1978.

Note: The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) website provides further information on seafarer training and qualifications.

Conditions of Employment

The rules of the Maritime Labour Convention govern the minimum working rights for seafarers. As such, they will cover:

  • Employment agreements
  • Wages
  • Hours of rest
  • Entitlement to leave
  • Repatriation
  • Compensation for a ship’s loss or foundering
  • Manning levels
  • Career and skills development
  • Employment opportunities

Employment Contracts

The convention helps to ensure contracts made between seafarers and shipowners provide them with fair living and working conditions. All contracts should be written in English language and, as a minimum, include:

  • Name and address of the shipowner
  • Name, date and place of birth of the seafarer
  • Place and date where the agreement was signed
  • Conditions for the termination of the agreement
  • Health and social security protection benefits provided to the seafarer by the shipowner
  • Seafarer’s right to repatriation

As a seafarer working on a seagoing vessel, you must also be:

  • Allowed to read and consider the details of your contract before signing it.
  • Provided with a record of your employment.
  • Given your own copy of the contract (the shipowner should also keep a copy)

Seafarers Wages

The MLC agreement states that seafarers’ wages should:

  • Be paid on a regular basis (i.e. monthly)
  • Include monthly statements of accounts
  • Allow the worker to transfer part (or all) of their wages
  • Keep currency conversion charges to ‘reasonable limits’
Hours of Rest

There are minimum requirements on seafarer hours of rest. As such, rest periods must be at least:

  • Ten (10) hours in any 24 hour period
  • Seventy seven (77) hours in any seven (7) day period

Any required crew exercises, such as lifeboat drills, must be carried out in a way to cause minimal disruption to rest periods. Seafarers would be entitled to a rest period to make up for it if they get called out during their rest period.

Note: You can review ‘Merchant Shipping Notice (MSN) 1848 (M) Maritime Labour Convention 2006, Survey and certification of UK ships’ for further clarification.

Holiday Pay

The MLC provides seafarers with an entitlement to paid leave which is calculated at 2.5 days per calendar month of employment. The ‘Merchant Shipping Regulations 2002’ contains extra details about holiday pay for seafarers.

Accommodation and Recreational Facilities

The Maritime and Labour Convention (MLC) ensures seafarers have appropriate access to decent accommodation and to recreational facilities while living on seagoing ships.

Repatriation of Seafarers

The repatriation of seafarers gives them the right to be returned back to their home country in certain situations, including:

  • Once their employment contract ends (or gets cancelled).
  • If they are no longer able to carry out their duties.
  • In the event of shipwreck.
  • If the ship they are working on is bound for a war zone and they did not agree for it to be the destination.

Note: Shipowners cannot request the advance payment to cover the cost of seafarer repatriation. The MCA can repatriate seafarers working on UK ships if the shipowner fails to make suitable repatriation arrangements.

Medical Care

Seafarers’ rights to adequate medical care includes:

  • Decent health protection facilities on board (includes any essential dental care).
  • The right to visit qualified medical personnel while the ship is docked in port.
  • Access to a qualified medical doctor on ships carrying more than 100 people on international voyages (lasting more than 3 days).
  • A designated and able seafarer(s) to provide first aid and medical care (in cases where there is no doctor on board).

Shipowner Liabilities

In situations where a seafarer suffers an accident or a disability due to their work, the MLC forces the shipowner to provide (where necessary):

  • Assistance and medical care
  • Repatriation
  • Burial or cremation (if it causes death)

Because of this, shipowners need to have adequate financial cover in case they become liable for compensation (e.g. for a long-term disability or illness).

Note: A shipowner would not be liable if an injury is not related to the duties of a seafarer, if it is caused by wilful misconduct, or if a seafarer intentionally hides an illness or a disability.

Health and Safety Protection

Under the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC), the working environments for seafarers on ships must:

  • Receive regular risk assessments to identify workplace hazards (e.g. dangerous machinery).
  • Have any necessary steps taken to prevent work related accidents.
  • Contain a system for reporting accidents and occupational diseases.

Enforcement of Seafarer Living and Working Conditions

The MLC regulations allow the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to withdraw the maritime labour certificate of a ship in cases whereby seafarer living and working conditions are breached.

Seafarer Complaints

There are several ways for seafarers to make a complaint about breaches of Maritime Labour Convention (MLC). Seafarers can complain to a manager while on board, and to an MCA surveyor while on shore. Further information and guidance is available in:

  • ‘MSN 1849 Onboard complaints procedure’
  • ‘Marine Guidance Note (MGN) 487 Onshore complaints procedure’

Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) Guide for United Kingdom