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The MLC's anti-harassment amendment

There has been overwhelming ILO support for the protection against harassment and bullying on board…

At the 2016 International Labour Conference – the 105th annual meeting of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) – government, employer and worker delegates overwhelmingly voted in favour of approving amendments to the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, in order to better protect seafarers against harassment on board. 

The amendments were discussed in detail and, unless there is significant disagreement when they are circulated to governments that have ratified the MLC, 2006, these new requirements will enter into force by December 2018.

This particular amendment relates to the Code implementing Regulation 4.3 – health and safety protection and accident prevention – and is intended to eliminate shipboard harassment and bullying by ensuring that these issues are covered by the health and safety policies and measures required by the Code. 

Originally submitted by the group of seafarer representatives to the Special Tripartite Committee, it refers to the guidance on eliminating shipboard harassment and bullying jointly developed by the International Chamber of Shipping and the International Transport Workers’ Federation, which recognises that; “Harassment and bullying on board ships can have serious consequences for the physical and emotional health of seafarers, lead to decreased motivation and increased sickness and can compromise cohesive and effective teamwork”.

It adds that harassment and bullying can also have negative effects for companies, resulting in a deterioration of working conditions and potential organisational, economic and legal consequences.

Under the guidance, harassment includes any inappropriate and unwelcome conduct that, whether intentionally or not, creates feelings of unease, humiliation, embarrassment or discomfort for the recipient. Bullying is a particular form of harassment that includes hostile or vindictive behaviour, which can cause the recipient to feel threatened or intimidated.

The full ILO guidance on the topic can be read here and aims to advise management companies and crew. It includes examples of harassment and bullying, outlines company policy on harassment and bullying, how to identify and report incidents of harassment and bullying and measures to eliminate harassment and bullying. 

Speaking to the Flag States, while the Isle of Man Ship Registry feels that is it too early to comment on what kind of impact this will have on the superyacht industry, it has confirmed that the anti-harassment and bullying measures were approved at a Special Tripartite Meeting on 10 February, 2016. These now need circulating and approved by ratifying governments, with the earliest date that they will come into force being December 2018.

The amendment may be interpreted as another aspect of the MLC that is more applicable to the commercial shipping industry, but the superyacht industry is certainly no stranger to cases of bullying and harassment. If this particular amendment comes into force in the future, then it may be a ray of hope for those crew subjected to such treatment, but that feel trapped by the stigma surrounding whistleblowing such behaviour in the superyacht industry.

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International Maritime Organization (IMO)

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The MLC's anti-harassment amendment


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