More than 300 representatives of seafarers, shipowners and governments, meeting at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Geneva on 11 April 2014, have taken steps to implement new measures to protect abandoned seafarers and provide financial security for compensation in cases of death and long-term disability due to occupational injury or hazard.

“When they come into force, these measures will ensure the welfare of the world’s seafarers and their families if the seafarers are abandoned, or if death or long-term disability occurs as the result of occupational injury, illness or hazard,” stated ILO director-general Guy Ryder. “These steps will certainly help improve working and living conditions for seafarers.”

The measures come in the form of amendments to the ILO’s Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC) which came into force in August 2013 and has already had a significant impact on the superyacht industry. With some praising it for introducing more professionalism to the crew sector, others have criticised it for its unsuitability for the superyacht industry, claiming that the Convention is aimed solely at the commercial sector which is a far cry from the conditions and benefits provided to crew in yachting.

The amendments were adopted without opposition, reports stated, and will now be sent to the ILO’s International Labour Conference in May for approval. They establish mandatory requirements that shipowners have financial security to cover abandonment, as well as death or long-term disability of seafarers due to occupational injury and hazard. “These legal standards will provide relief and peace of mind to abandoned seafarers and their families wherever they may be,” says Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, director of the ILO Labour Standards Department.

Under the new provisions, vessels will be required to carry certificates or other documents to establish that financial security exists to protect seafarers working on board. Failure to provide this protection may mean that a ship can be detained in a port. “The new measures will guarantee that seafarers are not abandoned, alone and legally adrift for months on end, without pay, adequate food and water and away from home,” Doumbia-Henry adds. “They also clearly make flag states responsible for ensuring that adequate financial security exists to cover the cost of abandonment, and claims for death and long-term disability due to occupational injury and hazards.”