Amid much talk surrounding the feasibility of applying the MLC’s hours of work and rest to the superyacht industry, we’ve heard a few eyebrow-raising admissions pertaining to falsifying documents on board. In issue 78, we delve deeper to better understand the legal ramifications, and where the responsibility lies, when it comes to working beyond those precious hours.

A recent survey of close to 250 superyacht crew revealed that, on a charter yacht, exhaustion is their biggest problem. The same survey showed that 40 per cent of crew “very often” have a turnaround time of less than than four days, even though 40 per cent would like more than that and 44 per cent feel they don’t have enough time to get the boat ready for a charter; 34 per cent feel they have only had the minimum rest before their charters begin; and, crucially, 61 per cent admit they do not record accurate hours of work and rest.

The survey, undertaken by Katarina Poljak, a chief stewardess currently studying for her MBA in International Hospitality Management, highlights a key problem the industry is facing. Not that crew are unable to meet the hours of work and rest requirements as set out in the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC) – this is generally becoming accepted, providing the yacht’s MLC documentation includes information as to how the crew will be compensated, such as ‘bulk’ time off; the problem, it appears, is rather that crew are recording false information. Additional comments in the survey pertaining to accurately recording hours of work and rest including the following: “Such is an impossibility”; “Smaller yachts make it impossible to come out on minimum hours of rest and still get the job done”; and, crucially, “The captain makes the crew lie.”

“The temptation is to falsely record hours to prevent breaches being identified by inspections. Captains who do this are putting themselves at considerable risk.” - Heidi Watson, employment partner, Clyde & Co

“Captains can be put under pressure with regards hours and rest from owners wanting to maximise use of the yacht, or even from crew who are keen to maximise their earning potential,” explains Heidi Watson, employment partner at Clyde & Co. “The temptation is to falsely record hours to prevent breaches being identified by inspections. Captains who do this are putting themselves at considerable risk.”

While much of the MLC comes down to the “shipowner”, the obligation to ensure compliance with minimum rest periods falls to the yacht’s captain, too. And non-compliance has its consequences. Under UK flag legislation, for example, failure to comply with this requirement is a criminal offence punishable by a fine of up to £5,000. “Likewise, a number of related requirements such as accurate record keeping and ensuring disturbance of rest is minimised are criminal offences for the master personally,” explains Watson, adding, “it is likely that many other flags will have implemented the MLC with similar legal consequences.”

Find the full article in issue 78 of The Crew Report - download now.


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