The Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC) has been in force for some time now, and one area at which captains are raising their eyebrows is that of accommodation requirements. In Title 3, regulation 3.1.9 states that “a separate berth for each seafarer shall in all circumstances be provided.” And though the provisions of the Passenger Yacht Code (PYC) and Large Yacht Code (LY3) allow the build of double or higher-occupancy cabins, this does little for yachts whose delivery is far behind them. With ‘hot bunking’ and sleeping on office sofas no longer allowed, today’s captains appear to be struggling when it comes to the number of crew on board providing the service expected to owners.

A crew cabin on board Vicem 46

“I’d like to have one more deckhand but I can’t, and I can’t only because I don’t have any accommodation. But one more deckhand would be perfect for the boat,” says Captain Olivier Gamberini of 47m sailing yacht Roxane, who currently has a crew of seven.

For Captain Scott Kynoch, 49m motoryacht Zoom Zoom Zoom needs another crewmember to join the yacht’s crew of nine. “It would be nice, and everybody always says it, to have one extra person, that extra body, but we’ve got nowhere to put them,” he says.

Captain Nick James of 37m motoryacht Dyna-R has a crew of seven but with a busy charter schedule is finding it difficult to balance service within the confines of the MLC’s hours of work and rest requirements, when just a few pairs of extra hands would solve the problem. “We need another girl,” he explains. “The volume for this size of boat is huge. The girls, they work in the summer, they’re like the unsung heroes; they work their socks off. It’s a huge interior to keep clean and do the service. We need another but with the MLC we can’t.

“I started in this industry on a big Perini Navi and in a season most boats used to take on another person for two or three months to fulfill that need of everyone being flat out, and they’d sleep on. Some boats have an office, they’d sleep in the office, they’d sleep in the crew mess, they’d do the hot bunk thing, and now it’s not possible. We can’t do that anymore.”

"It’s a double edged sword. Their rights are protected, they’ve all got that, but they have to work even harder."

Captain James points out that while the MLC is in place for the crew’s own protection, the result is that they’re just as, or even more, exhausted than before. “It’s a double edged sword. Their rights are protected, they’ve all got that, but they have to work even harder. Now the boats are getting bigger with smaller crew accommodation and smaller crew numbers, everybody’s got to work really hard and got to fulfill the hours of rest regulations but without the flexibility of getting extra people in to fill those really busy times.”

The Crew Report put the issue to maritime union Nautilus International, whose Antibes representative Jorg Wendt responded as follows: “At the end of the day it is all a question of realistic manning. The PYC minimum number is nine and this number does not include service personnel. From practice I know that crew very often occupy double roles on board. I think we can agree  that safe ships require realistic manning but someone must tell the operators and owners the sad truth: crew need to sleep from time to time in their own berths.”

While the benefits of the regulations are clear, those yachts built prior to the MLC’s ratification are evidently finding the implementation of this particular aspect of the Convention problematic. The Crew Report would be very interested to hear from captains who are finding the same issues on board and the industry’s suggestions for a solution; please comment below.