As the industry neared the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC) implementation date in August earlier this year, a stream of announcements emerged from recruitment agencies becoming MLC certified. As a result of this publicity, there have been mixed understandings about which recruitment agencies employers are now able to obtain crew from. Many captains have been left unsure as to whether they should only be using those boasting MLC certification and, if not, if there any benefits that come with the certification.

To clear up the confusion, The Crew Report asked the Maritime and Coastguard Agency about the issue, who deemed that; “A MLC-compliant yacht must use a recruitment agency that complies with the requirements of the MLC 2006. Not all recruitment agencies are MLC certified and some of these may be operating out of countries that have not ratified the convention. In instances where the recruitment agency is not certified, the yacht or yacht-management company has a responsibility to ensure that the agency complies with the requirements which include validating licenses and checking references.”

If it is therefore not necessary for superyacht crew recruitment agencies to gain compliance, it is worth asking why many have gone to the efforts of doing so. In issue 65 of The Crew Report, Laurence Lewis, director of YPI Crew, explained the benefits; “For the captains, knowing that they’re dealing with an agency that is MLC certified actually speeds up their own audits. When Port State Control come on board, one of the 14 points they with check is which crew agency you are using in which country the agency is based and its status.”

But Rupert Connor, managing director of Luxury Yacht Group, thinks that there could be other motivations for agencies gaining compliance that do not directly benefit the client. “Some agencies have tried to leverage the MLC into a commercial benefit by obtaining classification society certification to that society’s interpretation of the rules. However none of these are valid unless delegated by the national authority,” says Connor. “Certainly none that have a US base have MLC certification that is technically valid as the US Coast Guard is not issuing any certification for crew agencies because they have not ratified MLC.”

Connor went on to explain the technicality that the MLC’s reference to ‘crew agencies’ does not directly refer to those found in the superyacht industry. “The code references ‘crew agencies’ but is using that term as it is used in the commercial shipping world,” Connor tells us. “This means a manning agency that is contracted by an owner to supply crew and has the power to sign employment agreements and make hiring decisions for the owner. In the eyes of the MLC we are a résumé forwarding service and therefore the MLC is not applicable to yachting crew agencies.”

"If they find crew who have bad references, felony convictions or failed a drug test, now cannot black-list them because they are certified under MLC compliance and that’s not something that they can discriminate against any longer."

In reference to the benefits that certified agencies are boasting, Connor said; “We already check crew licenses and do 200,000 reference checks.” He continued to explain one of the main reasons he is resisting the certification at Luxury Yacht Group; “Those certified agencies, if they find crew who have bad references, felony convictions or failed a drug test, now cannot black-list them because they are certified under MLC compliance and that’s not something that they can discriminate against any longer. Isn’t that what my clients are paying me to do? The certification doesn’t actually stand for anything. It would be simple and easy to do it but it’s a waste of time and money and nothing that improves the service that I offer my clients.”

The recruitment sector seems to be divided; while those agencies that hold the certification are upholding the advantages, those who haven’t are claiming it is an empty certificate used solely as a marketing tool. It may still be too early to reach a definitive conclusion over the actual benefits that come with MLC certification, the facts are clear surrounding the misconception that captains on MLC-compliant yachts have to use MLC-certified agencies: this is not mandatory and there are still quality recruitment agencies conducting business as usual that are yet to, or may never, get the certification.

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