A crew guide to the Maritime Labour Convention

The Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) plays an important part in standardising the life of superyacht crew, but what exactly does the document contain? Read on to find out the key points of the MLC and see what the act entitles you to when you are working at sea.

Crew aboard a superyacht

What is the MLC, 2006?

The Maritime Labour Convention (MLC), 2006, came into force on 20th August 2013. It consolidates and updates over 65 international labour standards related to seafarers, adopted over the last eighty years in order to secure the right of all seafarers to decent living and working conditions aboard the vessel on which they work.

It is intended to be globally applicable, easily understandable, readily updatable and uniformly enforced. It has been designed to become a worldwide legal instrument for seafarers alongside SOLAS, STCW and MARPOL.

The aims of the MLC

Covering persons working at sea, the MLC aims to ensure comprehensive protection of the rights of seafarers, as well as to establish a level playing field for countries and ship owners committed to providing decent working and living conditions for seafarers. Consisting of 16 articles containing general provisions for life at sea, the MLC also includes five titles in which specific provisions are grouped:

  • Title 1: Minimum requirements for seafarers to work on a ship
  • 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

Bare in mind that, if you join a commercially registered yacht as a crew member, you will be protected by the MLC 2006 convention. However, if you are employed on a private yacht, it’s important to be aware that you may not benefit from the same rights. It’s important to request a copy of the contract prior to joining the yacht to ensure that the working conditions are safe and acceptable.

Minimum requirements for seafarers to work on a ship

This section is divided into four parts and is summarised below:

  • Minimum age requirements: Seafarers should be at least 16 years old (18 years old for work at night and in hazardous areas)
  • Medical fitness: Workers should be medically fit for the duties they are performing. Countries should issue medical certificates as defined in the STCW
  • Training: Seafarers should be trained for their duties, as well as having had personal safety training
  • Recruitment/placement services: Crew should have proper placement procedures, registration, complaint procedures and compensation if the recruitment fails

MLC employment conditions

The MLC sets out employment conditions for yacht crew, stating:

  • Contracts: Should be clear and legally enforceable
  • Payments: Wages should be paid at least every month, and should be transferrable regularly to family, if so desired
  • Rest hours: The maximum hours of work should not exceed 14 hours in any 24-hour period, and 72 hours in any seven-day period. Or, at least ten hours of rest in any 24-hour period and 77 hours in any seven-day period. The daily hours of rest may not be divided into more than two periods, and at least six hours of rest should be given consecutively in one of those two periodsCrew visas and passports
  • Leave: All seafarers have the right to annual leave as well as shore leave. The annual leave entitlement must, in general, be calculated on the basis of a minimum of 2.5 calendar days per month of employment
  • Repatriation: Returning to your country of residence should be free
  • Loss: If the ship is lost or foundered, all crew have the right to an unemployment payment
  • Manning: Every ship should have a sufficient manning level (MSMD)

Seafarers accommodation, recreational facilities, food and catering

  • Accommodation: Should be ‘promoting the seafarers’ health and well-being’. Detailed guidelines give minimum requirements for various types of rooms
  • Food and catering: Both quality and quantity should, including water, be regulated in the flag state. All cooks should have had proper training

Seafarers health, medical, welfare and social security

  • Medical care: Crew should be covered for, and have access to, medical care while on board, in principle at no cost and of a quality comparable to the standards of health care on shore. Countries should guarantee treatment on shore in serious cases
  • Ship owners’ liability: Seafarers should be protected from the financial effects of sickness, injury or death occurring in connection with their employment. This includes at least 16 weeks payment of wages after start of sickness
  • Health and safety protection and accident prevention: A safe and hygienic environment should be provided to all seafarers both during working and resting hours, with responsible safety measures taken
  • Access to shore-based welfare facilities: Port states should offer ‘welfare, cultural, recreational and information facilities and services’ and provide easy access to these for all seafarers
  • Social security: Should be available to all seafarers

MLC compliance and enforcement

Flag states are responsible for ensuring implementation of the rules on the ships that fly its flag.


Read about the different yacht crew positions and contracts, or discover the 5 basic rights you have under seafarers employment agreement.

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