MCA Consultation on MLC amendments

Circular No: NP/264/16


Our ref: S1/1 S5/2

14th November 2016

Dear Colleagues

Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) statutory consultation on amendments to the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC)

Further to circular no. NP/263/16 of 9th November 2016, the MCA issued a consultation last month on proposed amendments to the MLC.

The first set of amendments result from relatively minor changes to the MLC made at international level, through the International Labour Organisation. These tighten the rules around shipowner liability for meeting costs in the event of seafarer abandonment, repatriation, occupational injury or death. The enforcement of these new rules will also be added to the list of responsibilities for flag state inspectors checking international vessels for compliance with the MLC.

The second set of amendments, described by the MCA as ‘additional,’ concern the UK’s existing interpretation of the MLC in specific areas. Some of these, such as Amendments 2, 3, 4 and 6 are technical corrections and relatively uncontroversial.

Amendments 1 and 5, however, may have detrimental effects on seafarers, for the following reasons:
Additional Amendment 1 – MLC Medical Certification Regulations 2010
The MCA say that this amendment is required to ‘clarify the duty on seafarers to provide complete and correct information to ADs [Approved Doctors] at their medical examination.’ This amendment has the potential to provide shipowners grounds to challenge occupational injury or sickness payments to seafarers who were not aware they were suffering from a long term condition, for example, before going to work at sea.

We are also concerned by the MCA’s frequent production of amended lists of Approved Doctors in recent months and how the closure of Marine Offices will affect seafarers’ access to information on any updated statutory duties that apply to their regular medical examinations, including the ENG1 renewal process. Comments from Shipping Branches and individual members on this proposed amendment are welcomed.
Additional Amendment 5 – Merchant Shipping (MLC) (Minimum Requirements for Seafarers etc) Regulations 2014 regulation 50

This refers to seafarer entitlement to payment of wages for a period of 16 weeks if they are sick or injured at work, as set out in MLC Standard A4.2 (Shipowners’ Liability). Shipowners made no complaint about the MCA’s interpretation of this MLC Standard during the consultation period in 2012, whilst RMT and Nautilus argued at the time for sick or injured seafarers to continue to be paid beyond the 16 week period if they remain sick or injured, including for periods beyond the end of the tour of duty which would cover temporary or agency staff.

This issue has been regularly discussed by the maritime unions, shipowners and the MCA at the Tripartite Working Group on the MLC over the last year, without agreement. The shipowners (four ferry companies operating in the UK) claim that the current drafting of Regulation 50 could cost them £4m and would jeopardise the future employment of UK seafarers. RMT and Nautilus argue that this is a slur on seafarers and that the development of CBAs to establish a company by company arrangement would clearly undermine the MLC’s status as the minimum international standards for employment and welfare for seafarers. Your comments on this contested Amendment would be extremely helpful in arguing the union’s case.

The consultation papers can be downloaded here and hard copies are attached:

The MCA consultation closes on 5th December and any comments on it to before that date will inform the union’s response.
It would be appreciated if you could bring the content of this circular to the attention of all branch members and you will be advised of further developments.

Yours sincerely
Mick Cash
General Secretary