To the outside world, the life of a merchant seafarer may appear to be glamorous, circling the globe, visiting exotic locations and meeting even more exotic people. In truth, however, it can be a tough life. Men and women who work in this industry often have to deal with harsh, uncomfortable working conditions, long periods away from home and occasionally dangerous practices.
As you might expect from an industry that is as global as it gets, there has been a great deal of variance in the legal rights of seafarers over the years. In 2013, the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) was brought in to standardise many of the regulations. Thanks to this development, crew members on board any MLC vessel or in any MLC port can now expect better treatment, more rights and further protection.
Protection for individuals, peace of mind for organisations
Bringing together a wide variety of rules and regulations and uniting them under one umbrella was a difficult process, but the benefits that ensued have made the effort worthwhile. Among the changes the industry now enjoys are:
- Accepted standards of practice are now in place
- Owners and operators must keep accurate certification
- Hefty fines and potential imprisonment for failing to comply
- The provision of food, accommodation and medical care
The latter benefit also includes the provision of safe drinking water, which means the presence and utilisation of potable water test kits have become even more imperative. Regular testing and accurate monitoring of results will help vessel owners ensure they don’t fall foul of the regulations.
The welfare of crew members is a key to successful operations
Each voyage is only ever as successful as the efficiency of the vessel and the productivity levels of the crew. The fact that more than 90% of the world’s shipping tonnage now adheres to the MLC’s covenants speaks volumes for its influence, and highlights the importance of looking after crew members. In short, safer, happier shipping conditions can help to increase profits.
Protecting the rights of the crew also includes making sure there are insurance policies in place to cover against the abandonment of seafarers and to insure them against death or physical disability. The days when the more callous vessel owners could cut corners at the expense of their responsibilities towards their crew members are thankfully disappearing into the distance.