Department for Transport

Maritime Labour Convention, 2006

Compliance and enforcement

Reg. 5.1.5 : Onboard Complaints Procedure

This page sets out current MCA thinking on what UK shipowners will need to do to comply with the revised UK legislation being prepared in anticipation of the UK ratifying the MLC, 2006.

These draft proposals have been discussed and agreed with the Tripartite Working Group (consisting of UK seafarer, shipowner and government representatives) which is advising the MCA on implementation of the Convention.

The purpose of disclosing the draft proposals at this stage is to assist owners of UK ships in their preparations for the MLC coming into force internationally. However, the legislative changes referred to on this page have not yet been made, and public consultation on them has yet to be carried out.

Accordingly the draft proposals set out here must not be regarded as final or certain, and shipowners should check final regulations and guidance when issued to identify any changes.

For up-to-date information on the status of legislative changes associated with MLC implementation, check this page regularly.

***Guidance ONLY***


1. General

1.1 The purpose of the on-board complaints procedure is to allow seafarers to lodge complaints relating to any matter that is alleged to constitute a breach of the requirements of the MLC, 2006, including the seafarers’ rights detailed in Article III and Article IV, as implemented in UK law.

1.2 The on-board complaints procedure may be set out in an applicable collective agreement. Such will be acceptable provided it does not contain any provisions that conflict with UK law.

1.3 It is important that the on-board complaints procedure seeks the resolution of complaints at the lowest level possible.  However, in all cases, seafarers must have the right to complain directly to the Master. Where they consider it necessary, seafarers also have the right, to complain directly to the Master, the Shipowner and Maritime and Coastguard Agency or other appropriate external authorities.

1.4 The procedure must provide the seafarer with the right to be accompanied and/or represented during the complaints procedure by another seafarer of their choice on-board the ship. Safeguards against the possibility of seafarers, and those accompanying or representing them, being victimised for lodging complaints should also be included. The term “victimisation” covers any adverse action taken by a person with respect to a seafarer for lodging a complaint that is not manifestly vexatious or maliciously made.

1.5 All seafarers are to be provided with a copy of the on-board complaints procedure applicable on the ship. The procedure shall include contact information for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the name of the person (or persons) on-board the ship that can provide confidential impartial advice on their complaint and generally assist them in following the complaint procedure.

1.6 When developing an on-board complaints procedure, ship owners should be guided by the section of the ACAS Code of Practice 1 entitled “Disciplinary and grievance procedures” covering grievances, in addition to the minimum requirements set out in Section 3 below.

2. Minimum requirements

2.1 The following should be considered when developing the on-board complaints procedure:

2.2 Complaints should be addressed to the head of the seafarers’ department or to their superior officer.

2.3 The head of department or superior officer should attempt to resolve the matter within a prescribed time limit appropriate to the seriousness of the issues involved.

2.4 If the head of department or the superior officer cannot resolve the complaint to the satisfaction of the seafarer, or the seafarer considers that the complaint is not being dealt with expeditiously, the seafarer may refer the matter to the Master who should handle the matter personally.

2.5 All complaints and associated discussions should be recorded and copies of such records should be provided to the seafarer concerned.

2.6 If a complaint cannot be resolved on-board, the matter should be referred ashore in consultation with the seafarer(s) concerned or any person they may appoint as their representative.

2.7 In all cases seafarers should have the right to be accompanied and lodge complaints directly with the Master, the shipowner, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency .