Department for Transport

Maritime Labour Convention, 2006

Frequently Asked Questions

Below is a list of questions which have been raised with the MCA regarding the application and interpretation of the Maritime Labour Convention on UK Registered vessels.


Title 1 : Minimum requirements for seafarers working on ships

Title 2: Conditions of employment

Title 3: Accommodation, recreational facilities, food and catering

Title 4: Health protection, medical care, welfare, and social security protection

Title 5: Compliance and enforcement



(1)  The MLC defines a seafarer as any person who is employed or engaged or works in any capacity on board a ship to which this Convention applies, is it intended that the following are included under this definition?

   i)  Scientists on research vessel, and so not employed by the shipowner

   ii)  Guest entertainers who go from ship to ship

   iii) Security Staff employed to deter acts of piracy

All of the above may be seafarers.  This may be determined from a number of factors. Resolution 7 sets out the criteria to be applied. Article II says "In the case of any doubt as to whether any categories of persons are to be regarded as seafarers for the purpose of this Convention, the question shall be determined by the competent authority in each member after consultation with the shipowners' and seafarers' organisations concerned with this question" in the UK  the MLC Tri-partite Working Group will consider.

   iv) Cadets and trainee seafarers where not being employed by the shipowner

Cadets and trainee seafarers are "seafarers" as defined in the Convention..

In the case of Cadets, where they are protected by a training agreement which provides the same protection as an MLC compliant Seafarer Employment Agreement (S.E.A) this can be accepted under the provision for seafarers who are not employees under the MLC Reg Standard A2.1.1 (a)

(2). If shipowners don’t consider someone to fall within the scope of the definition what should they do?

If the shipowner is in any doubt then they should contact the MCA for advice; any borderline roles will be considered on a case by case basis in consultation with the TWG.


(3)  Why is the term "Shipowner" being used in the MLC, rather than "Company" (as under ISM) for the same entity is meant?

The MLC is ship based rather than company based. The intent is to ensure that seafarers and authorities have a single point of contact for the MLC issues on ship.






Seafarer with documentation


Minimum Age

(4)  If no under 18s are working, or foreseen working, on the ship, does the DMLC part II need to cover the procedures for the protection of under 18s?

A reference to compliance with the MS and FV (Health and Safety at Work)(Employment of Young Persons) Regulations 1998 and MGN 88(M+F), where young persons are employed as identified in the List of Young Persons (ALC1(c)) may be sufficient.


Medical Certificates

(5)  If seafarers renew their ENG1 medical certificate  early (e.g because it will expire while they are away at sea) can they get credit for this in the validity of their new ENG1?

This is not provided for in existing UK regulations, in STCW Manila Amendments, or MLC, 2006. However the principle of "credit" for early validation in respect of certificate of competency is in Guideline BI/11 of STCW Manila amendments and we will explore with other administrations whether they think this can be applied to medicals.


Recruitment and Placement

(6) Many agencies simply send out CVs for a multitude of jobs. How is the seafarer in this case advised about the job they are bing put forward for?

There are a number of relevent provisions:

  • The seafarer will need to know about the job before they are placed
  • The seafarer will need to see and understand the SEA beofre they sign
  • The seafarers will also need to be informaed about any particular conditions relating to the work for which they are to be engaged, and any shipowners policies on their engagement (B1.4.2(g))

None of these require the seafarer to be informed/advised beofre the CV is sent out but they must be met beofre the seafarer is engaged. MCA interprets this as before they sign the SEA.


Seafarer Employment Agreements    

(7)  How can the employment relationship between a seafarer and their employer, needed to ensure that HMRC employment rules cannot be applied to shipowners, be shown on a Seafarer Employment Agreement, which must be between the seafarers and the shipowner.

The shipowner must be named on the SEA so that both the seafarer and maritime enforcement authorities have a single point of contact in case of any problems. The SEA may separately name the employer, where appropriate.


(8) How can the SEA requirements (for signature by the shipowner and seafarer, and for allowing the seafarer time to seek advice, and understand the SEA) be met where seafarers are sent to join ships at short notice?

MCA would take a pragmatic approach in these circumstances. An electronic  copy of  the SEA could be sent to the seafarer to print off and take to the vessel, or the SEA could be sent to the vessel for the seafarer to sign, with the master signing on behalf of the shipowner.  Alternatively, provided the seafarer has signed their copy, the shipowner's signature could be added later. But the principle that the seafarer must have time to read and take advice on the SEA, and that both sides must have agreed it, must apply in these cases.

(9) How are the charities to satisfy the wage requirements with regard to volunteers who fall under the definition seafarer?

It is suggested that the SEA is annotated  "Unpaid volunteer" but also there should be references to the recognition of the.nature of the shiponwer's charitable activities by the MCA in the DMLC Pt1.


(10) Is 6hrs on and 6hrs off acceptable on UK Ships?


Yes, but the MCA does scrutinise records carefully on such ships to ensure that seafarers are getting the minimum periods of rest required.


(11) When rest periods are disturbed for drills or in an emergency, does the disturbance count as working time?


Yes. Seafarers must be given compensatory rest as soon as practicable afterwards.


(12) Will authorised exceptions have to be reviewed when STCW amendments come into force in January 2012?

Yes. As the UK subscribes to both ILO 180/the MLC and to STCW, any exceptions authorised by the MCA must comply with both Conventions. The changes are:

No exceptions to 10 hours rest in any 24-hour period or to the longest period of 6 hours; but the 10 hour period may be made up of 3 periods; may only extend for a maximum of 48 hours.

Minimum of 70 hours rest in any 7-day period; any exception may only extend for up to 14 days, and must then be followed by a period of at least twice the length of the exception.



(13) Do wages have to be paid for a period of repatriation (i.e between leaving the ship and arriving home?)

This is a guideline, B2.5.3(c), and is not covered by existing legislation. It is therefore not mandatory, but will be included in MCA guidance as the MLC Guideline.


Cook in the kitchen

Accommodation and Recreational Facilities

(14)  Is there a transitional period for the keel laid date, as there is for certification?

No. All ships for which the keel is laid, or, for vessels which do not have traditional keel, reach an equivalent stage of construction, after the MLC comes into force internationally must be built to MLC standards for crew accommodation.


15) What is a “working alleyway”?  

This is considered to mean the main thoroughfare on large ships used for moving stores, laundry etc. The intention is to ensure that seafarers are not disturbed during their rest periods by noise or vibration. It does not include a normal pedestrian corridor, although additional sound insulation may be needed for cabins under such areas.


16) Are deck prisms permitted to provide natural light?

As this is permitted under the existing crew accommodation requirements, and is not contry to the standard in the MLC, it will continue to be permitted. It meets the objective of giving seafarers' eyes a break from artificial light.

Food and Catering

(17)  How will candidates with an HND certificate from an ordinary catering college convert this into a ship’s cook certificate? What will MCA accept as a certificate from another ratifying countries? Will it need to quote the MLC as its basis?


i) Existing Ship’s cooks

Those Ship’s cooks who are upgrading their certificate to UK (MLC 2006) Ship’s Cook Certificate who have acceptable documentary evidence of completing all or some of the training will not be required to repeat that training.

Those unable to demonstrate they have undertaken the required additional training will be required to undertake a “bolt on module” (which may be completed  via a computer based training package) to upgrade. We would estimate the additional training to be in completed within 15 hours.


ii) New Ship’s Cooks

The MCA will be moving toward recognising a “standard course” which has yet to be determined, but will be published in a MSN together with the MLC “bolt on module”  (see para (i).

iii) Substantial equivalence

The MCA will automatically recognise those ships cooks qualification issued by other ratifying states.

Ship’s Cooks certificates issued by an Administration that is neither a EU member State nor signatory to the Maritime Labour Convention (2006) may be accepted to serve, in the capacity of ship’s cook, on UK flagged ships providing that

(a) it has been shown that the training approved by the Administration concerned is equivalent to the UK requirements and

(b) a Memorandum of Understanding exists between the UK and the Administration concerned outlining this recognition.

The details of those countries where such recognition exists will be published in a M Notice in due course.


(18) What is meant by "potable water"   

This includes drinking water and water used for cooking and washing. It excludes technical water (for engine cooling etc.)



Shipowner Liability    

(19)  What proof of financial security is required?

The TWG has looked at the alternatives of P&I cover, commercial insurance, a bond scheme or self insurance. The draft regulations will allow any of these forms of security. However, the Department for Transport will consider further and determine which of these are acceptable as part of their implementation of the EC Insurance Directive.


(20)  Does the proof of financial security need to be displayed for the information of seafarers (eg in the mess room)?

This is not a Convention requirement at present; however it would be good practice, and it could be introduced as part of a future MLC amendment (see the final report (9th session) of the Joint IMO/ILO Ad Hoc Expert Working Group on Liability and Compensation regarding Claims for Death, Personal Injury and Abandonment of Seafarers, ILO/IMO/WGPS/9/2009/10). Shoreside, evidence of employer’s liability insurance must be displayed in the workplace.


Social Security    

(21) How will the MCA inspect for payment of mandatory social security contributions?

Social security contributions are not per se an inspection item, and Regulations 4.5 / Standard A4.5 places duties only on Members (governments). The SEA is required to include only social and health protection provided by the shipowner. this does not include making the relevant national social security contributions. The duty exists under other (national) legislation in the UK.  HMRC is the inspection body for this.

However MCA inspectors would expect to see social security payments shown on the wage accounts for EU domiciled seafarers.

(22) What happens if the shipowner has a provision in the Seafarer Employment Agreement whereby the seafarers is required to make Social Security provisions through payment of his wages - Is this acceptable practice?

Social security provisions mainly deal with the government’s responsibility to have adequate social security provisions for seafarers ordinarily resident in their territory. The shipowner must ensure that any mandatory contributions are paid.

In addition, sections 4.1 and 4.2 deal with the social protection which shipowners are required to provide (medical care, and shipowner compensation and liability).





(23) Will there be any opportunity for certification, prior to UK ratification?


MCA is proposing to offer voluntary early inspection and certification, in conjunction with any ISM audit. MCA will comment on a draft DMLC Part II, and this can already be arranged through the company's CSM. It may also be possible to arrange trial inspections, where this is advantageous to both the shipowner and MCA.


(24) Can this be done at the same time or combined with other ship inspections like the ISM inspection?



(25) Approximately how long does an MLC inspection take ?

This largely depends on the size of the vessel and number of crew however to give an indication;


  • Dredger – 8 hours’ work – 10 crew.
  • Container ship – 8 hours’ work – 20 crew.
  • RoRo ferry – 12 hours work – 100 crew
  • Passenger ship – 4 days -1200 crew


The time on the ship can be reduced by sending documentation in advance to the MCA for checking.


(26) Can a port state detain a ship for any breach  of the Convention?

The MLC Standard A5.1.4.7(c) and the ILO Port State Inspection Guidelines permit detention of a ship for a serious or repeated breach, or for any non-conformance which puts at significant risk the health and safety or security of seafarers.


(27)  Since ISM audits check how the Company ensures compliance with other regulation, how are deficiencies under the MLC to be handled?

If the ship is found not to be in compliance with the MLC then the surveyor would raise a non conformity under the ISM Code inspection and the individual deficiencies against the MLC.


(28) Will MCA be able to meet its commitments to inspect and certificate UK ships, on top of the current workload? Will the use of Recognised Organisations be needed to achieve this?

MCA plans to carry out MLC inspections in house, although ROs may be used in limited circumstances on a case by case basis. While a challenging workload for MCA surveyors, trial inspections have shown that by combining with ISM and ISPS audits, efficiencies can be made.


(29) Is it acceptable for the copy of the MLC carried on the ship to be electronic?

Draft r13 of the MS (MLC)(Survey & Certification) Regulations requires copy of MLC to be carried but does not specify whether it has to be in hard copy form, however MCA reccommends it should be in a form that is readily accessible to seafarers.


(30) Where DMLC Part I is updated, does the Part II have to be re-approved?

Except for significant changes, DMLC Part II will only need re-approval at renewal.


(31) Will alternatives be accepted to an on-board person to give impartial advice to seafarers wishing to make a complaint under the MLC? (eg on ships with small crews and regular turn-around of crews, where there is a risk that the designated person could either wish to complain or be the subject of a complaint?)

Yes, in the case of smaller crews MCA recognises that it may be necessary for there to be a mechanism in place which allows seafarers to make their complaints to someone other than the designated person onboard .


(32)  Are the procedures for on-board and on-shore complaints limited to matters covered by the MLC?

The statutory requirement is that MLC-compliant  procedures are in place for MLC-related complaints. However these could be incorporated into other broader company grievance or whistle-blowing procedures.