From the 7 August this year, the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC) will come into force in the UK. With this, one of the factors to be considered is that all crew working on board, considered ‘seafarers’, should be issued with a Seafarer Employment Agreement (SEA) and fall under the requirements outlined in the convention. There has been ambiguity as to what the term ‘seafarer’ actually refers to, especially in the superyacht industry which often sees occasional workers, or supernumeraries, engaged in other activities on board such as armed guards, nannies or even contractors.

Many captains are still unsure as to where the line is drawn in terms of issuing SEAs and there seems to be general confusion. “The Maritime Coastguard Agency [MCA] recognises that if they already have an employment agreement with their employer, then they won’t need one because they are not actually classed as seafarers," explains Roger Towner, chief examiner at the MCA. “One problem that we are dealing with at the moment within the UK is with regards to armed guards used for a crossing or certain passage. The Security Association for the Maritime Industry came to us and said that they did not want to be considered seafarers, because they didn’t want to get involved in SEAs. We agreed on this but now they are asking for the benefits that come with being labeled as a seafarer.” These benefits include being issued with discharge books and baggage allowances on flights. More details about the classification of armed guards with regards to the MLC are given in a previous article, which can be read here.



In its latest newsletter, Ocean Independence has released valuable information with regards to the function of occasional workers under the MLC. “The underlying ethos and advice that is given is to keep things simple and where possible the use of occasional workers should be avoided,” states Keith Oulds, compliance manager. “This may be as straight forward as finding out whether there is the capacity within the number of guests expected on board to include the occasional workers, whilst still remaining under the maximum allowed on the yacht’s certification. Naturally this will always be the preferred and recommended solution.


"If the individual normally works on shore, is employed by the owner or the charterer, independent of the yacht, and is on board for a short period of time with no emergency or operational duties, then depending on the flag state they may not fall within the definition of a ‘seafarer’ for the purposes of the MLC."



“The interpretation of an ‘occasional worker’ varies between flag states, but generally the principle expected is that working on board is not expected to be part of the worker’s business or that these arrangements are not expected to be repeatedly or frequently used by the occasional worker. Should the person not fit into this category, or a specific category allowed by the yacht’s flag state, such as Malta's category 'Ship surveyors & auditors or equipment repair/service technicians who are generally employed ashore', then these individuals should be considered as seafarers and full STCW training requirements should be applied.” If the individual normally works on shore, is employed by the owner or the charterer, independent of the yacht, and is on board for a short period of time with no emergency or operational duties, then depending on the flag state they may not fall within the definition of a ‘seafarer’ for the purposes of the MLC.

Oulds concludes that in all cases early discussions with all parties is recommended for the requirements of the individual to be explained. He asserts that, as a minimum, the following should be agreed before the charter agreement is signed and in place prior to the yacht sailing:

  • All occasional workers, for their own protection, and the safety of other members of the crew, must have familiarisation training on board. The familiarisation must be completed by the occasional worker and endorsed by the captain before sailing.
  • They must have a berth and access to mess areas and sanitary facilities of a standard all of which are at least in accordance with the yacht’s crew accommodation requirements.
  • They must be at least 18 years old and medically fit to carry out their duties and to be self-sufficient in an emergency situation. Proof of medical fitness is to take the form of a current medical fitness certificate stating they are fit to work at sea. Naturally, a seafarer’s Medical will cover this requirement. 
  • All additional personnel must have a contract of employment, providing equivalent protection to that available under the MLC, taking into account their duties, pattern of working, normal place of work, and other relevant factors. This is to be provided at the confirmation of the charter period or at the initial request if earlier.
  • Agreement prior to embarkation that all food or medical care on board and for their travel back from the vessel to their normal place of work/home is to be borne by the employer.
  • Health and safety legislation and associated standards applied on board are to remain in full.

The newsletter can be read in full
here.