The European Commission proposed that the EU law should enshrine an agreement between social partners to improve the working conditions of seafarers on board of EU-flagged vessels.
The proposal is expected to ensure that seafarers are better protected against abandonment in foreign ports in the future, and to strengthen their rights to compensation in the event of death or long-term disability, due to an occupational injury, illness or hazard.
Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, Marianne Thyssen, said: “Maritime transport remains crucial for Europe’s economic development. Today’s proposal will strengthen seafarers’ protection and underpin fair competition in the maritime sector. Improved working conditions will also make the shipping sector more attractive for young Europeans.”
More specifically, the global nature of the shipping industry, with different national laws applying depending on the state of the ship owner, the flag state of the vessel or the nationality of the crew, make it difficult for seafarers to get speedy and satisfactory redress in case of abandonment, injury or death. What the Commission is proposing are improvements to the existing system.
The proposal will improve seafarers’ protection in the event of abandonment, including when the ship owner fails to pay contractual wages for a period of at least two months, or when the ship owner has left the seafarer without the necessary maintenance and support to execute ship operations. This will not only benefit seafarers themselves, but also all EU port authorities, as it will result in fewer problematic cases of abandonment.
Furthermore, the proposal will improve the mechanisms by which compensation is provided. This will make the payment of claims quicker and easier, which will help avoid the long delays in payment and red tape that seafarers or their families frequently encounter in case of abandonments or in case of death or long-term disability resulting from accidents or illness at work.
In response to the initiative, European Maritime Social Partners announced that they welcome the adoption of their proposal to update Agreement on the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC).
“We are proud of what we have achieved through the maritime social dialogue. Our constructive relations and co-operation have resulted in numerous joint projects and campaigns to assist shipowners and seafarers in Europe. We have also agreed an ambitious work programme for the next biennium” ECSA’s spokesperson, Tim Springett said.
The ILO MLC amendments entered into force on 18 January 2017 and require shipowners to provide financial security to ensure the repatriation of seafarers and the payment of contractual claims from seafarers or their dependants in respect of death in service or long-term disability.
The MLC 2006 sets minimum requirements to improve seafarers’ working and living conditions including recruitment and placement practices, conditions of employment, hours of work and rest, repatriation, annual leave, payment of wages, accommodation, recreational facilities, food and catering, health protection, occupational safety and health, medical care, onshore welfare services and social protection.