A captain recently asked us whether it was required for the superyacht’s captain to be on board during a Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC) inspection. The answer: not necessarily, although it’s certainly a good idea.
There is nothing in the MLC, nor in the guidelines for Port State Control (PSC) inspectors, that makes reference to a vessel’s master being present, although in the PSC guidelines it does say the inspector should make him/herself known to the master or duty officer if requested to do so and, should any deficiencies be found, they must be reported to the vessel's master immediately.
What is important to remember, however, is that if PSC inspectors step on board, and the yacht has its MLC certificate and its DMLC (Document of Maritime Labour Compliance) parts I and II on board, in their original format, the inspectors are restricted to inspecting those documents only. It is for this reason that the master should ask the inspectors the purpose of their inspection; if they are at the yacht for an MLC inspection they should be looking at no other documents than those just mentioned.
There are a few exceptions to this, however, outlines John Cook, partner at Lesia Group. “One is if the inspector has come to do an MLC inspection based on information he or she has received as to a complaint. Then the inspector can investigate that complaint and see where that takes him/her. But what the inspector can’t do is expand upon that until it’s clear that there are other factors involved. The other is if he sees anything as a danger to the crew, in terms of health and safety, or if he/she hears a complaint while on board, the inspector is allowed to investigate.”
“If they have those [MLC] documents on board, they are restricted to inspecting those documents, and then they are required to leave the vessel.” - John Cook, partner, Lesia Group
It is for these reasons, Cook reiterates, that captains should ask PSC inspectors for the purpose of the inspection. “If they have those [MLC] documents on board, they are restricted to inspecting those documents, and then they are required to leave the vessel.”
And hours of work and rest? While included in the MLC, hours of work and rest are also included in other types of general inspections. But under MLC, in the DMLC part II the yacht would have a policy and procedure in place for dealing with crew who work longer hours, for example giving them time off after the event of going over working hours, which would have been approved by the flag state. “PSC has got no authority to question the national procedures of another flag state,” confirms Cook.
So, in short, when a PSC inspector comes on board, be sure the captain is on the vessel and be sure that, as captain, you ask the inspector for the purpose of their inspection.