Better rules on repatriation under the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) — which comes into force in under a month — may reduce the incidence of stranded seafarers during pay disputes or technical issues, says Nautilus International.
The 21 seafarers stuck onboard the Liberian flagged vessel, A Whale, owned by TMT group, in the Gulf of Suez for nearly six months — who ran out of food and fuel and hadn't been paid for months due to a technical problem — would be helped more readily under the MLC, said Nautilus director of legal services, Charles Boyle. He said that when the convention comes into force ships flagged in MLC-ratifying countries will be required by that country to have financial security to cover the costs of repatriation. If the shipowner will not repatriate, then the flag state is required to repatriate them.
The MLC would also help in the following ways, if the agency was based in a ratifying country it would have to:
In the case of the A Whale, Liberia was the MLC-ratifying country, but the crewing agency was in India. In such cases shipowners based in a ratifying country will be required under MLC to check, as far as practicable, that agencies in a non-ratifying country meet the recruitment and place standards in the MLC, title 1.4, said Mr Boyle.
The TMT Group has filed for bankruptcy protection in a court in Houston, and the Indian shipping ministry is working on repatriating the stranded A Whale crewmembers and settling their wage dispute. If the MLC was in force, Liberia as the flag state would have to repatriate them, explained Mr Boyle.
'An example of good practice in preparation for the MLC is Guernsey, which for the time being at least, is not going to have the MLC extended to it through the UK, so it is setting up a system of licensing its agencies to endorse them as being compliant with MLC recruitment provisions, added Mr Boyle.