Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) for ship owners

The page is intended to give a summary to you as a ship owner about your responsibilities under the convention.


Does MLC apply to your ship?

Refer to the flowchart on the MLC Guidelines - 3. Which ships are affected? for a quick guideline on whether or not MLC will apply to your vessel:

MLC guidelines [PDF: 627kB, 35 pages]

Some general applications of MLC on ships

New Zealand commercial ships of 500 gross tonnage or over engaged on international voyages must carry a Maritime Labour Certificate, a Declaration of Maritime Labour Compliance Parts I & II.

Other New Zealand commercial ships, irrespective of size, engaged on international voyages are required to comply with the convention, but are not required to hold an MLC Certificate. A NZ-flagged commercial ship of any size calling at a foreign port may be inspected by port State Control Officers under the convention.

In such cases, the ship operator may wish to voluntarily obtain certification as evidence of compliance; otherwise they may be subject to a more detailed inspection against the Convention standards (specifically the matters listed in Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 Appendix A5-III).

New Zealand commercial ships of 200 gross tonnage or more on domestic voyages which proceed beyond restricted limits are required to comply with the Convention, but are not required to hold an MLC Certificate.

How MLC applies to NZ ships of different tonnages [PDF: 72kB, 1 page]


How to comply

Maritime Labour Certificate

A Maritime Labour Certificate can be issued where a ship has been inspected and compliance with the Convention confirmed by a person or organisation authorized to do so. The certificate is issued to the ship’s owner in respect of that ship for a maximum period of five years.

The certificate comprises three elements – the certificate itself, and the Declaration of Maritime Labour Compliance (DMLC) Parts I and II.

For New Zealand ships, the DMLC Part I is prepared by Maritime NZ as the Competent Authority and sets how New Zealand as a signatory to the Convention gives effect to the MLC in its legislation and practices, as well as any equivalences and exemptions made in respect of the ship itself.

The DMLC Part II is prepared by the ship owner and documents how they achieve compliance with the MLC in respect of the ship. When conducting port State or flag State inspections, an inspector will reference the DMLC Part II.


Obtaining a Maritime Labour Certificate

Refer to the Certification process on the MLC Guidelines - 4. Inspection and certification for the steps you will need to take for MLC certification:

MLC guidelines [PDF: 627kB, 35 pages]

An Interim Maritime Labour Certificate can be issued:

  • To new ships on delivery
  • When an existing ship changes flag
  • When a ship owner assumes responsibility for the operation of a ship for the first time.

An interim Maritime Labour Certificate may be issued for no more than six months. Prior to expiry of the Interim Maritime Labour Certificate a full inspection shall be carried out to enable the issue of the full term Maritime Labour Certificate

MLC Certificate application documents

MLC Certificate application form [PDF: 193kB, 6 pages] DMLC Part I example [PDF: 101kB, 8 pages] DMLC Part II blank template [DOC: 105kB, 2 pages]

Delegated Persons

Maritime NZ has delegated certain functions under the convention to the following ‘delegated persons’:

  • Recognised organisations (also referred to as Classification Societies). A list of these societies can be found below.
  • Maritime Labour Convention trained MOSS surveyors (see below).
Download a list of recognised organisations [PDF: 64kB, 1 page]

MOSS surveyors

Ships required to hold an MLC Certificate

Your ship must be inspected by a delegated person to confirm compliance. If the ship is in class, then the RO will issue the certificate. If the ship is not in class, then the delegated person will send your application to Maritime NZ who will then issue the certificate.

The certificate is issued for a maximum period of five years.

If you are departing for overseas, you must hold an MLC Certificate from the 9th of March 2017.

It is a requirement under the Convention for the ship to be re-inspected for compliance at intervals no greater than three years. This inspection takes place between the second and third year, and at the time the certificate is renewed.

During Port State or Flag State inspection, the MLC will be accepted as prima facie evidence of compliance with the convention, unless there are clear grounds to believe that the working and living conditions aboard the ship don’t currently comply with the convention. An inspection may also be carried out if there are clear grounds to believe the ship has changed flag to avoid compliance, or there has been a complaint about specific living and working conditions on the ship (refer Standard A5.2.1 of the Convention).

Ships that don’t require an MLC Certificate, but are required to comply

To confirm compliance, the ship must be inspected by a delegated person, who will issue an Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 compliance report.

For MOSS ships, this compliance report is also required to be sighted by the MOSS surveyor, for the certificate of survey to be issued. MOSS ships that already hold a certificate of survey, must ensure that they comply with the Convention in order to maintain validity of the certificate of survey. Maritime NZ will allow a period of six months from the 9th of March 2017 for you to arrange an inspection by your delegated person, and a compliance report to be sent to Maritime NZ.


Who is a Seafarer?

The term seafarer is defined in Parts 51 and 52 and has the same meaning as in the Maritime Transport Act. In relation to the MLC, a seafarer is in effect anyone employed or engaged or who works on a ship in any capacity related to the operation of the ship. This does not include marine pilots, law enforcement personnel or anyone temporarily engaged on the ship while it is in port.

The Master is also considered to be a seafarer.


A cadet may not be in paid employment, but is still considered under New Zealand law to be a seafarer.

Where a cadet is not in paid employment, they may not have a Seafarer Employment Agreement. However, Maritime NZ requires cadets to have a signed written agreement between the cadet and the training provider. Maritime NZ also requires a signed written agreement between the training provider and the shipowner.

The Maritime Labour Convention guidance contains further information on the obligations of the shipowner when cadets are on-board.

Other persons

For other persons on-board a ship (eg a scientist aboard a research vessel), the shipowner will need to contact Maritime NZ to obtain advice as to their status as a seafarer, which will be reflected in the applicable certification.


Seafarer Employment Agreements (SEA)

Every seafarer serving aboard a ship to which MLC applies (excluding unpaid cadets)must have a signed seafarer employment agreement, which as a minimum, must contain the following:

  • Seafarer and shipowners name and details
  • Capacity in which the seafarer is employed
  • Wages to be paid to the seafarer
  • Their leave entitlements
  • How the agreement can be terminated by either party
  • Health and social security protection benefits
  • The seafarer’s entitlement to repatriation

The seafarer must be provided with a signed original copy of their SEA, and a copy must be kept on-board by the shipowner or master.

In addition, the SEA must contain the items required by Maritime Rules Part 52, and for New Zealand flagged ships, must also comply with the Employment Relations Act 2000.


What are my obligations to seafarers under the Maritime Labour Convention?


Seafarer wages must be paid in full at no more than monthly intervals.

Seafarers must be given the option to transmit all or part of their wages to a nominated person. Any charges incurred by seafarers associated with transmission of their wages must be reasonable.

If wages transmitted are to be exchanged into a different currency, the rate of currency exchange, unless otherwise agreed, must be at the prevailing market rate or official published rate and not unfavourable to the seafarer.


Seafarers are entitled to a minimum of 2.5 calendar days per month of service.

On New Zealand ships, the minimum amount of paid annual leave is specified in the Holidays Act. The maximum period of continuous service (without annual leave taken) must not exceed 12 months.

On foreign flagged ships, you must refer to your flag state requirements for the maximum period of continuous service onboard before seafarers become entitled to leave.

Recreation Space

You must provide recreation space onboard that meets the requirements of Maritime Rules Part 51. In addition, you must specify what recreational facilities are provided in the Declaration of Maritime Labour Compliance Part II. These recreational facilities, amenities and services must meet the special needs of seafarers who live and work on the ship.

Food and catering

You must provide food and water free of charge to seafarers during the operation of your ship.

You must provide adequate, varied and nutritious meals, which have been prepared and served in hygienic conditions. Meals prepared for seafarers must meet any religious requirements they have or cultural practices as they relate to food. Drinking water must be of appropriate quality.

Ship requirements for a ship’s cook

Ships are required to have a qualified ship’s cook on board if:

  • they have a crew of 10 (including the master) or more, or
  • They are 1000GT or greater operating in an unlimited area.

If your ship requires a ship’s cook

If you operate a ship that requires a ship’s cook, that person must hold:

  • A letter from Maritime NZ confirming that their New Zealand cooking qualification meets the requirements of the MLC; or
  • A Ship’s Cook Certificate issued by an administration that is a party to the Maritime Labour Convention.

Food preparation and storage facilities

The Food Act 2014 is primarily concerned with food safety. Where the ship owner has a Food Control Plan or Deemed Food Control Plan registered under the Food Act, Maritime NZ will generally accept this as meeting the requirements for the provision of food preparation and storage facilities.

Medical care

On New Zealand ships, if you are overseas seafarers must receive all necessary medical attention at your expense.

While in New Zealand, seafarers have access to the public health system.

Maritime Rules Part 50 prescribes medical stores and medical guidance about what must be carried on a New Zealand ship.


Maritime Rule Part 51 sets the standards for all areas of a ship that crew occupy. This includes the sleeping and recreation rooms, galleys, laundries, sanitary accommodation (baths, showers, WCs), drying rooms, and store rooms. It also sets minimum standards for heating and ventilation.


Hours of work/Hours of rest

The maximum hours of work for seafarers shall not exceed:

  • 14 hours in any 24-hour period; and
  • 72 hours in any 7-day period

Alternatively, the minimum hours of rest shall not be less than:

  • 10 hours in any 24-hour period; and
  • 77 hours in any 7-day period

You are required to establish and enforce rest periods and post a table of the shipboard working arrangements with the minimum hours of rest required. Records of hours of rest must be maintained. These must be endorsed by the master and seafarer and kept on board.

Record of hours of rest [PDF: 145kB, 2 pages] Table of Shipboard working arrangements [PDF: 69kB, 1 page]

The daily rest period should be divided into no more than two periods, one of which should be at least 6 hours duration. The interval between consecutive periods of rest shall not exceed 14 hours.

Muster and Life Saving Apparatus/Fire Fighting Apparatus drills should be held at times to minimise disturbance to rest periods and not induce fatigue.

Compensatory rest for call outs during normal rest periods must be considered.

In an emergency, the Master may suspend the scheduled hours of work or rest, until such point as normal operations resume. Seafarers should be afforded a period of rest at the earliest practicable time following the emergency.


Port State Control (PSC) inspections

New Zealand commercial ships of any size that are undertaking an international voyage are subject to Port State Control inspections in overseas ports.

These inspections will include checks to ensure compliance with the convention.

For ships not required to hold an MLC Certificate, the ship operator may find it advantageous to voluntarily obtain certification as evidence of compliance, otherwise they may be subject to a more detailed inspection against the convention standards (specifically the matters listed in the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 Appendix A5-III).

Foreign flagged commercial ships visiting New Zealand will be subject to inspections for compliance with the convention as part of normal PSC inspections.

During a Port State Control (PSC) inspection, Maritime NZ will recognise seafarers placed aboard a ship by registered RPS providers from member countries that have ratified the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006. If the shipowner has seafarers placed aboard from RPS providers from non-member states, it is the responsibility of the shipowner to demonstrate that the RPS provider meets the requirements of the convention.


Flag State Control (FSC) inspections

For New Zealand ships that operate under ISM (subject to Maritime Rules Part 21), Flag State inspections are conducted annually by Maritime NZ and compliance with the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 will be checked as part of those inspections.


MOSS inspections

For ships that operate under MOSS, compliance with the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 will be checked by Maritime NZ as part of scheduled MOSS inspections and audits.


Use of Private Recruitment and Placement Services

If you are recruiting seafarers from a private recruitment and placement service, you must ensure that they comply with the MLC.

Seafarers must not be charged, by any organisation, for recruitment and placement services.



On-board complaints

Your ship must have a procedure to deal with onboard complaints that meets the requirements of the Employment Relations Act. In the case of a complaint, the onboard complaints procedure should be followed in the first instance.

Shore based complaints

As a party to the Convention, New Zealand has an on-shore complaints procedure that seafarers can use to make complaints.

New Zealand Flagged Ships

If the complaint is about employment matters on a New Zealand ship, please contact Employment NZ directly, who provide guidance on dealing with employment relationship issues, as well as ensuring that minimum employment standards are met in the work place.

For complaints, the complaints process can be found here:

Making an MLC complaint


Financial security for the purposes of repatriation

All seafarers are entitled to repatriation at no expense to them:

  • after a maximum 12 months period of employment
  • as stated in the SEA
  • when they are not able to carry out their duties on board due to illness, injury, etc.

Shipowners must provide evidence complying with Appendix A 2-1 of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006. This must be provided by an approved third party, and could be in the form of P&I cover.


Financial security relating to shipowners liability

Shipowners must provide evidence of financial security required by Standard A 4.2 of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 in relation to sickness, injury, death or long term injury and costs of medical care. In New Zealand, ACC may cover only part of this obligation, however the convention requires the shipowner to cover the full costs.

Shipowners must provide evidence complying with Appendix A 2-1 of the convention. This must be provided by an approved third party, and could be in the form of P&I cover.


Contact us

If you require any further information about the Maritime Labour Convention, contact us by email:

Related information:

MLC guidelines

Full Maritime Labour Convention guidelines.

[PDF: 627kB, 35 pages]


Maritime Labour Convention

Visit the ILO website for the Convention’s full text.

Read more