- Operations - 'We must be proactive on crew welfare’

By SuperyachtNews in collaboration with Nautilus International

‘We must be proactive on crew welfare’

Charles Boyle, director of legal services, Nautilus International, says regulations compliance isn’t enough – crew welfare must take priority…

There’s a distinction between the public perception of the glamorous lifestyle of working on superyachts and the actual reality, which rarely matches that perception. The importance of crew welfare is gaining increasing attention across the entire shipping industry, including that relating to yacht crew. While some regulatory frameworks are trying to address these concerns, it’s evident that more proactive measures are needed to truly enhance the quality of life for crewmembers.

Nautilus is doing much to assist its yacht members, with our legal and yacht teams being kept constantly busy on many issues such as dismissals, unpaid wages, discrimination, bullying and harassment as well as regulatory work with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and Red Ensign Group.

This contributes to the improvement of crew welfare because working and living conditions on board yachts are vitally important. Therefore, the industry must prioritise the improvement of conditions on superyachts and in shipyards, ensuring they are more appropriate for crew. This is an area covered by the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, and Flag-state implementation laws, measures and guidance. 

The MLC contains extensive mandatory rules and guidelines for the provision of decent accommodation and recreational facilities for seafarers consistent with promoting their health and well-being. The MLC is a ‘living instrument’ and is amended by the International Labour Organization every few years.

The 2022 amendments will come into force in December this year, and most relevant for the superyacht industry will be the requirement for mandatory ‘social connectivity’ on board and, where practicable, owners and ports will have to provide internet access. There will also be a requirement for the mandatory provision of appropriately fitting personal protective equipment, for meals to be balanced and drinking water to be provided free of charge (as is already the case with meals).

The MLC also provides for flexibility in how it is implemented, particularly through the concept of ‘substantial equivalence’ as a means of implementation in cases where it’s impossible to adopt the exact letter of the Convention. The UK’s Tripartite Working Group (TWG) oversees the application of such flexibilities on UK and REG vessels.

Charles Boyle, director of legal services, Nautilus International
Photo: © Jess Hurd

Particularly important is Part A of the REG Yacht Code, Chapter 21B (applying to yachts more than 200gt), which sets out standards on headroom, ventilation, lighting, food, sleeping accommodation, mess rooms and recreational facilities.

Regarding accommodation, the strict letter of the MLC provides that (except on passenger ships) an individual sleeping room shall be provided for each seafarer. However, in the case of ships of less than 3,000gt or special-purpose ships, the MLC allows exemptions from this requirement to be granted by the Flag state after consultation with the shipowners’ and seafarers’ organisations concerned.

The TWG used this flexibility, as set out in MGN 517, to apply a general substantial equivalence to yachts from 3,000gt to less than 5,000gt, allowing the sharing of a twin cabin by non-officers, with a minimum floor area of at least 11 square metres. The quid pro quo was that each twin cabin must be provided with en-suite sanitary facilities including a WC, a basin and a shower or tub. 

The TWG has also been consulted on new-build projects for an equivalence to be applied to yachts more than 5,000gt (which fall outside MGN 517). These applications are carefully scrutinised and approved only if there’s clear evidence the proposals benefit seafarers – for example, crew preferences following a survey of their views. So, in some cases, crew might prefer sharing a cabin in exchange for an en-suite bathroom rather than sharing a bathroom built for six seafarers.

However, mere compliance with regulations isn’t enough. The industry must prioritise the well-being of its workforce by going beyond minimum standards. The upcoming 2022 amendments to the MLC, including mandatory ‘social connectivity’ and improved access to the internet, are steps in the right direction. But more proactive measures are needed to truly enhance the quality of life for crew, both on board and in the yards.

Nautilus will continue to fight for the advancement of the welfare of crew, whether it be by tackling their employment problems or representing their interests with national, regional and global regulators.

This article first appeared in The Superyacht Report – New Build focus. To gain access to The Superyacht Group’s full suite of content, publications, events and services, click here to join The Superyacht Group Community and become one of our members.

The next edition of The Superyacht Report, issue 221 (to be published in June), focuses on captains, crew and operations. We delve into topics from substance abuse among crew and how it can be addressed, to leadership in the industry and how captains and senior leaders can be supported as they progress in their careers.

If you feel you can contribute with insights or information on any aspect of the industry, we would love to hear from you – please contact us on

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