Since the ratification of the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC), the question of what used to be called “supernumeraries” (non-permanent crew such as nannies, hairdressers or private armed security guards) on board was raised. Under these new regulations, what would be classed as a supernumerary? And do supernumeraries have the same rights as the rest of the crew?

Under the MLC, “supernumeraries” no longer exist. All crew are referred to as “seafarers” and “occasional workers” (who in the past would have been referred to as supernumeraries), if carried as crew rather than passengers, are considered seafarers under the Convention.

Seafarers, remember, are seeing huge changes under the MLC and are subject to all sorts of rights including their Seafarer Employment Agreement and good living conditions. So, if an owner wants a nanny or a hairdresser on board without taking up one of the vessel’s passenger slots, the nanny or hairdresser as a seafarer will have to have the same rights, or similar and within the confines of the Convention, and Employment Agreements as the rest of the crew on board.

To get around this problem MLC has made an exception for individuals who normally work ashore and are only on board for a very short time. There are a number of additional regulations in these cases, including the necessity for occasional workers to have familiarisation training on board and must have a contract of employment providing equivalent protection to that available under the MLC.

One restriction, however, is that an exception cannot be made if this occasional worker is needed for emergency duties, and this has raised many questions surrounding the use of Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel (PCASP) on board. Though many will normally work ashore and are only on board for a short length of time (normally only while a vessel is crossing high-risk areas), they are needed in emergency situations and as such, based on the above criteria would have to be considered a seafarer, and as such would need to receive all the same benefits as crew, or seafarers, under the MLC.

The UK has responded to these questions and the MCA has announced that on UK-flagged vessels PCASPs are not considered seafarers.

This raised lots of eyebrows in the industry, with many realising this was not feasible. Will PCASPs really going to get their STCWs to be considered a seafarer? “Flags have the provision to interpret different professions on a ship,” explained Sedar Isik of consultants Brookes Bell at SAMI’s Future of Maritime Security Workshop. The flag state’s role in this context is outlined in Resolution Seven of the MLC, and the flag’s decision in the Declaration of Maritime Labour Compliance (DMLC) part I. In most cases, he announced, armed guards will not be considered seafarers.

The UK has responded to these questions and the MCA has announced that on UK-flagged vessels PCASPs are not considered seafarers. There are regulations surrounding this, however, including the requirement that the PCASPs are engaged under GUARDCON or equivalent contractual arrangement providing for their protection and the requirement that PCASPs are provided with suitable accommodation on board.

The UK has announced that it will review this policy in May 2015, by which time it is likely more flag states will have made clear their thoughts on PCASPs under the MLC.

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