Seafarers’ Legislation Faces Year-Long Ratification Delay

Monday, November 29, 2010

Full ratification of the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) which will have far reaching implications for the whole shipping industry, including commercial yachts, is now likely to be delayed by a year until April 2012.

“Although the required gross tonnage figure has been reached there is, however, some doubt as to whether the necessary number of countries will be achieved by the end of this year,” said John Wade, technical services manager with Isle of Man-based Dominion Marine.

His prediction comes after attending the Global Superyacht Forum 2010 in Amsterdam which saw delegates from the leading brokerage houses and major shipyards taking part in the industry’s largest and most valuable conference event.

The Convention, conceived by the International Labour Organisation, provides comprehensive rights and protection at work for more than 1.2 million seafarers.  It updates more than 65 international labour standards relating to seafarers which have been introduced over the last 80 years.

Wade said the present intention is that the requirements of the MLC will be incorporated into a revised Chapter 21 of the Large Yacht Code, stipulating inter alia possible acceptable floor areas etc for crew accommodation in large commercial yachts.

“It had always been considered that pleasure vessels did not come under the requirements of the Convention but now the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency is suggesting that any vessel which has an employed crew on board may come under the Code requirements,” said Wade.

“It was stated that a legal interpretation had been put forward that vessels which are ‘commercially owned by a corporate body’ will have to comply with the requirements of the MLC, although the Marshall Islands have stated that their interpretation of this is different in respect of the definition of ‘ordinarily engaged in trade’.”

The Code, said Wade, states clearly that there should be a level playing field and there should be no more favourable treatment for any vessel, even for those whose country had not ratified the Convention.

Referring to the Passenger Yacht Code, which had been introduced for vessels with up to 36 guests and a maximum of 99 persons on board, Wade said it had been developed by the Cayman Islands with input from other members of the Red Ensign Group.  The document had previously been circulated within the industry and some 40 per cent of the responses received had been incorporated into the final document.

“Although the Code can be applied to vessels greater than 24 metres, realistically it will apply more to larger size vessels,” said Wade.  “Currently there are 11 vessels being built to the Code for Cayman Islands’ flags, with a further three in the process of design each being over 90 metres in length.”

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