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Space, rest make a case for yacht input into MLC

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Two years since the Maritime Labor Convention 2006 took full effect, the impact hasn’t been as hard or as expensive as many had feared.

“When it all first started, everyone thought it would steer us to disaster,” said Peter Southgate, who worked with the Cayman Islands registry at the time and is now with yacht management company Wright Maritime Group. “But it’s not been anything like that. It’s brought a lot of consistency and awareness to crew.”

At the first of four YachtInfo seminars being held at the show, a panel of managers and flag state experts looked back on two years of yachting under the MLC, the hurdles the industry has overcome and the lessons it’s learned.

“In yachting, the experience has been very positive,” Southgate said. “The commercial industry is still struggling with it but yachting has embraced it.”

With about 400 inspections on yachts in the Paris MOU area in the past two years, about 38 yachts were found deficient on matters related to the MLC, said Andy Langford, senior surveyor with Regs4Yachts in the UK. Compared with other commercial inspections and deficiencies, “MLC is no greater or less of a problem than other regulations,” he said.

The panelists agreed that the biggest lesson learned was to be sure the yachting industry has a seat at the table whenever maritime regulations are drafted. They cited two examples of problem areas in the MLC that are still a challenge for yacht crew.

First, the space required for crew accommodations created a minimum that new build yachts would never be able to offer.

“We had to go to each flag state and ask for substantial equivalencies,” said Franc Jansen, owner of the yacht management company Jansen Maritime Services in France. “We have this legislation and we make it work, but it doesn’t really fit. We, as an industry, have to work really hard to make sure we’re not in this situation again.”

The other and perhaps bigger manifestation of not having input to the drafting of MLC is the hours of rest requirement. Langford asked the handful of captains and crew at the seminar if they record their time of work and rest honestly.

One captain simply said no. Another said he tries to, but “during charter season, it gets a little grey.”

“You don’t want to put in the record something that’s going to get you in trouble,” this captain said. “I make sure the crew are rested enough through the charter, and give the guys time off after.”

That fear of “getting in trouble” bothered Langford, who does surveys for the Marshall Islands.

“Flag states are there for your protection,” he said, noting that a notice of non-compliance is notice to the management company or owner that something needs to change to give crew the time off it needs.

But the reality is that management companies and owners may see a non-compliance issue as a failure on the captain’s part, and simply replace him/her.

One hiccup in the hours of work/rest issue has been understanding what constitutes work versus rest. Being up early and ready to work does not mean the crew member is working. Likewise, watching a movie late at night in the crew mess is a time of rest.

“MLC puts pressure on the captain and crew because they know they can’t comply if they want to provide the service their guests expect,” Jansen said. “This is an important issue for the industry to address, especially on smaller boats.”

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About Lucy Chabot Reed

Lucy Chabot Reed is publisher and founding editor of The Triton.

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