The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) have released a Marine Guidance Note, MGN 517 (M), on the Maritime Labour Convention’s (MLC) substantially equivalent accommodation standards for large commercial yachts of 3000gt to less than 5000gt. The notice is to all owners, operators and managers, crew, designers, builders and surveyors and provides guidance on the application of the accommodation standards within Title 3 of the MLC to Large Commercial Yachts, certified under the Large Commercial Yacht Code (LY3).

The Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC) came into force internationally on 20 August 2013. The UK government, in co-operation with its social partners, agreed substantially equivalent accommodation standards for Large Commercial Yachts certified under The Large Commercial Yacht Code (LY3). Following the publication of LY3, which permitted vessels of 3000gt and over to be built under the Code for the first time, designers and builders raised concerns that strict compliance with the LY3 standards may not create the best sleeping accommodation standards for crew on yachts of that size. Following consultation, the UK Government agreed to accept the alternative arrangements in Annex 1 for crew sleeping accommodation on large yachts of 3000gt to less than 5000gt.

LY3 21B.8.5 requires yachts of 3000gt or more, constructed on or after the date the MLC enters into force to comply fully with the requirements of standard A3.1 of the MLC. The Merchant Shipping Regulations 1998, permits the Secretary of State to accept the substantially equivalent arrangements. This MGN provides formal acceptance by the Secretary of State that the substantially equivalent standards published in Annex 1 to this note may be used in place of the standards in MLC A3.1.8, A3.1.9 (a), (b) and (f), and A3.1.11(a). "The substantially equivalent standards represent a package of measures that are only acceptable if used in their entirety," the note states. "‘Cherry-picking’ is not permitted."

Annex 1 – Substantially equivalent sleeping accommodation standards for Large Commercial Yachts of 3000gt to less than 5000gt:

•    All seafarers who are officers shall have their own cabin;
•    No more than two seafarers not performing the duties of officers may be accommodated per cabin, in a twin cabin arrangement;
•    Vessels shall be designed and crewed in such a way that cabins can be allocated by gender – i.e. there shall be no mixed gender cabins. This does not prevent a mixed gender couple voluntarily sharing a cabin in operation. The seafarer cabins are to be designed and will only be approved as twin cabins, not as double cabins. There must not be a compulsion in any way whatsoever for seafarers of different genders to share a cabin;
•    There shall be a minimum cabin sixe for seafarers who are not performing the duties of officers who are provided with a twin cabin. Based on the MLC requirement for vessels of 3000gt or over for 5.5 square meres of floor area per seafarer, the minimum floor area for such a cabin shall be no less than 11 square metres;
•    Each seafarer berth in a twin cabin shall be arranged longitudinally, i.e., so that it is a ‘fore and aft’ bunk. Bunks arranged athwartships (across the vessel sideways) will not be permitted in twin cabins;
•    Each twin cabin shall be provided with en suite sanitary facilities. Each set of en suite sanitary facilities shall meet the minimum requirements set out in the MLC for sanitary facilities, i.e. that they provide a WC, a basin and a shower or a tub. The floor area for en suite sanitary facilities may be incorporated with the minimum 11 square metres floor area for each twin cabin;
•    Each cabin shall be lit by natural light and shall be provided with artificial light. There shall be a minimum of one window providing natural light per cabin.

With the initial implementation of the MLC, many yacht builders and designers were concerned with how how the strict regulations regarding crew accommodation would be adapted to luxury yachts without reducing the number of crew on board. This note shows promising progress that the industry is working with the authorities to find adaptable and manageable solutions. The MGN can be read in full here.