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Understand and apply the 2006 Maritime Labour Convention in the maritime and yachting industry

The Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) of 2006 was adopted during the 94th session of the International Labour Organization (ILO) General Conference in Geneva. It is an internationally significant legal instrument for the maritime sector, aiming to establish a unique and cohesive framework that incorporates all current standards from international conventions and recommendations concerning maritime labor.

The yachting sector attracts numerous sea enthusiasts as well as professionals. Working on a yacht involves specific working and living conditions that require appropriate protection. That's why the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) is a crucial instrument to ensure the rights and well-being of sailors in the yachting industry.

The key points of the Maritime Labour Convention

I) Minimum standards for working and living conditions for seafarers

  • Working conditions of the seafarers :

The 2006 Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) has brought significant improvements to the working conditions of seafarers by establishing international standards to ensure a safe, fair, and decent working environment for them.

For example, concerning working hours and rest periods, the MLC mandates that seafarers should not work more than 14 hours in any 24-hour period and 72 hours in a week, thus ensuring adequate rest periods. This means that crews must have structured schedules with strict monitoring to prevent work overload, which is particularly crucial during peak seasons.

  • ​​Living and housing conditions for the seafarers :


The convention establishes standards for accommodations, recreational facilities, food, and catering services on board. Accommodations must ensure the health, safety, and dignity of seafarers. The convention sets high standards for living conditions on board, including requirements for adequate accommodations, sanitary facilities, quality food, and access to medical care. This means that ships must provide well-ventilated and well-lit cabins with comfortable beds and sufficient personal space for each seafarer. Periodic inspections are carried out to ensure compliance with these criteria in the event of cabin changes. The criteria include minimum size requirements, the use of materials ensuring a safe environment, and placement away from certain sensitive areas such as engine rooms, etc.


Health of the seafarers and safety on board :

II) Contractual entitlements, social protection and training for seafarers

  • Contractual entitlements and social protection for seafarers :

The Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) has strengthened the contractual rights and social protection of seafarers, marking a significant advancement in the recognition and safeguarding of their fundamental rights.

It is now mandatory for employers to provide seafarers with clear and understandable employment contracts, detailing the terms of employment, rights, and responsibilities of each party. These contracts must include accurate information on remunerationworking hoursvacationrepatriation conditions, and healthcare rights.

The convention also ensures extensive social protection for seafarers, including the right to health insurance, coverage for work-related accidents and occupational diseases, as well as social security benefits. This represents a crucial step in protecting seafarers from financial risks associated with illness and injuries. It's worth noting that unique documents on occupational risks exist for commercial vessels, allowing for the assessment of all risks related to the boat's activity. The Convention guarantees support in case of income loss due to work incapacity. This contributes to the creation of a fair and transparent working environment where seafarers can work with the certainty that their contractual rights and well-being are protected and respected.

  • Access to appropriate training for seafarers :

The convention has enhanced access to adequate training for seafarers, emphasizing the importance of education and continued training in the maritime sector. A key aspect of the MLC is its focus on the necessity for seafarers to be properly trained and qualified for the tasks they are called upon to perform. This includes not only technical training and familiarization with specific ship equipment but also training in first aid, sea safety, firefighting, and emergency situation management.

For instance, the convention mandates that all seafarers receive basic safety training before their initial assignment and undergo regular refresher courses to keep their skills up to date. Additionally, the MLC underscores the importance of health and well-being training, including stress management and mental health awareness, which is crucial for maintaining a healthy working environment on board. The convention has also strengthened seafarers' rights to receive clear and comprehensive information about their rights and obligations, ensuring that each crew member fully understands the terms of their employment and knows how to access help and support when needed. As a result, the MLC has led to an overall improvement in the quality and competence of seafarers, contributing to safer and more efficient navigation globally.


  • Certification and inspection of seafarers' conditions :

The convention has introduced significant changes in the certification and inspection processes for seafarers, thereby strengthening the regulation and monitoring of maritime labor standards.

A crucial aspect of the MLC is the requirement for ships to carry a 

"Maritime Labour Certificate", which can be found on the website of the

State Secretariat responsible for maritime affairs, and a "Declaration of

Maritime Labour Compliance", attesting that the working conditions on

board comply with the convention's requirements. These documents

must be obtained after a thorough inspection of the ship by the

competent authority of the flag state. These inspections cover various

areas, such as living and working conditions, occupational safety and

health, meal and accommodation arrangements, and social

protection measures.

Furthermore, the MLC establishes a system of port state inspections,

allowing port authorities to check foreign ships stopping over at their

ports to ensure they adhere to convention standards. In case of

non-compliance or serious deficiencies, ships may be detained until

the issues are resolved. This inspection and certification procedure has

contributed to raising labor standards in the maritime sector, providing greater transparency.


III ) Strenghtening of seafarers' protection

The 2006 Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) established significant mechanisms for the protection of seafarers in case of complaints, addressing a crucial aspect of their rights and well-being at work. A fundamental element of the MLC is the implementation of an onboard complaints system, ensuring that seafarers can report issues related to their working conditions, health and safety, or rights without fear of retaliation. This complaint procedure is designed to be accessible, fair, and effective, providing seafarers with a clear path to express their concerns and seek resolution. In addition to onboard mechanisms, the MLC also encourages signatory states to establish external procedures outside of ships, allowing seafarers to submit complaints to the competent authorities in their flag state or port.


These provisions ensure an additional layer of protection, particularly in situations where seafarers might feel unable to report issues directly onboard due to fears of discrimination or retaliation. Thanks to the MLC, seafarers now have a stronger platform to assert their rights and ensure their voices are heard, thereby contributing to promoting a fair and transparent working environment in the maritime industry. The MLC obliges signatory states to implement the convention and monitor its enforcement, both at national and international levels.

IV) Application of the Maritime Labour Convention

As with all ships, yachts must, of course, comply with the MLC since this convention is mandatory for all vessels used for commercial purposes. Depending on their size, yachts accommodate crews that can sometimes be substantial. Given the luxurious environment associated with yachting, there may be pressure on crews and their captains. Hence, the importance of the MLC, which establishes a precise framework to be adhered to, avoiding excessively long working days, cramped living conditions, and ensuring minimal social protections for the crew.

There are support and follow-up services to assist captains, yacht operators, and even owners in ensuring that their vessel consistently meets international standards to ensure the revalidation of the Maritime Labour Certificate, which is valid for a period of 5 years. Compliance with the MLC is crucial, but maintaining one's yacht to standards is equally important for every owner. Regular technical inspections are necessary to ensure the integrity and safety of the vessel. It's worth knowing that maintenance management software exists to assist owners, captains, or yacht operators in maintenance, upkeep, and crew management, helping to preserve the value of the yacht.

In terms of health and safety, the MLC has strengthened standards by requiring personal protective equipment, regular safety training, and clear procedures for managing accidents and medical emergencies. This is notably outlined in Standard A4.3: Health and Safety Protection and Accident Prevention.

  • This standard covers aspects such as the adoption of workplace safety and health policies and programs, risk assessment, and training and instruction for seafarers.

  • It includes precautions to prevent workplace accidents, injuries, and occupational illnesses, incorporating measures to reduce the risks of exposure to harmful levels of environmental factors and substances.


The MLC ensures the contractual and social protection of seafarers by mandating health insurance and coverage for work-related injuries. These measures have significantly contributed to improving the quality of life and work for seafarers, reducing abuses and precarious working conditions in the maritime sector.

Poste de navigation

The Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) is an international convention aimed at ensuring a minimum level of protection for seafarers in the maritime sector, including yachting. The MLC includes general rules that define the scope of the convention, the responsibilities of member states, procedures for amendment and revision, as well as final provisions. It also establishes objectives and fundamental principles regarding seafarers' rights, such as respect for trade union freedom, non-discrimination, equal treatment, consultation with social partners, and the promotion of employment.

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