The Unregulated Labour Market of Seafarers aboard Private Vessels

The Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) was adopted by the International Labour Conference in February 2006 and came into force on the 20th of August 2013. The aim of these rules is to set minimal standards aboard vessels and to protect the wellbeing of the seafarers. That being said, it is important to note that the MLC is only applicable to commercial vessels and does not apply to seafarers working onboard privately used yachts or pleasure craft.

Whilst it might seem that having less regulations for the private yacht industry is a good thing for owners, it is becoming increasingly evident that such lack of enforcement is leading to undesired consequences.

Owners are complaining that they cannot find the right candidates to work as crew on board their vessels, whilst crew members are becoming more apprehensive to take on jobs in this sector due to the unregulated environment. Transport Malta, which is the authority in Malta responsible for the Maltese Shipping register and flag, has started some discussions on the viability or otherwise of introducing the MLC rules to pleasure yachts. Malta has established itself as the largest superyacht register in the world and wishes to exploit its position in order to introduce positive changes for the industry’s long-term benefit.

There is an argument that both the owner and the crew will stand to gain from making the MLC applicable to seafarers aboard private vessels. The owner will benefit from having seafarers who adhere to standards and obligations as set out in the MLC; leading to a safer vessel, competent seafarers and a better environment onboard. The seafarer will, in turn, benefit from a set of comprehensive rights and standards of protection; including the right to a safe and secure workplace, fair conditions of employment, medical care, leave entitlement, the opportunity to join a trade union, etc.

Some, however, continue to argue that the private yacht industry has functioned well throughout the years without the necessity of over-regulating it. I, for one, tend to disagree with this rhetoric. Having said that, I also understand that introducing new rules to an industry that professes to be happy with the status quo is certainly not a good commercial move for any flag administration aiming to attract more owners to its shore.

Matthew Attard is a Lawyer within Ganado Advocates’ shipping and yachting team. His particular focus is on shipping registration, the sales/acquisitions of vessels and the formation and support of shipping organisations and companies. Regularly assisting clients in corporate matters and M&A transactions, Matthew also regularly assists major financial institutions and owners in the financing of vessels and related matters.

 tel: +356 2123 5406 – 171, Old Bakery Street, Valletta VLT 1455, Malta

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By Matthew Attard

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