Labour Research July 2012

Law Matters

Seafarers to get better conditions?

The Department for Transport (DfT) has recently published a consultation document on regulations which would improve UK seafarers’ employment conditions by incorporating a 2006 International Labour Organisation convention.

The DfT is consulting about increasing the minimum amount of space that crew are allocated for living and working accommodation onboard. It also proposes requiring certain vessels to have a qualified ship’s cook onboard and for food preparation and dietary standards to be met.

The government additionally wants shipowners to cover the cost of any medical care that seafarers need. In the event of the ship being wrecked, seafarers would also be compensated for any injury, loss and period of unemployment that they suffer. And shipowners would be obliged to provide compensation in the event of the long-term disability or death of a seafarer, including meeting funeral costs.

Other matters including changes to the law on seafarer employment agreements, wages, repatriation costs, a minimum working age and health and safety are expected to be the subject of regulations later in 2012.

The regulations, if enacted, would significantly enhance seafarers’ working conditions and have been rightly labelled by the seafarers’ union Nautilus International as a seafarers’ Bill of Rights. The RMT maritime union agreed that they would be “a major step forward in statutory protection for seafarers”.