Engaging to protect seafarers’ rights

Safe Seas Clean Seas Issue 51, December 2016

Maritime NZ is engaging with a wide range of stakeholders about the requirements of the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) 2006, in readiness for it coming into force in New Zealand from March next year.

Shipping companies and agents, seafarer recruitment and placement services, unions, pilots associations, classification societies, surveyors and the Mission to Seafarers welfare charity are among the organisations with whom Maritime NZ is actively liaising.

New Zealand is among 80 member states that have adopted the Convention - which aims to protect workers’ rights; by setting minimum standards for working and living conditions for seafarers on larger commercial vessels.

Recently staff from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), provided training for Maritime NZ personnel in how to administer the provisions of the MLC, says project manager Arthur Jobard.

“Australia has been party to the Convention since 2013, so it was beneficial to learn from the experiences of our neighbouring flag state,” he says.

From 9 March 2017, Maritime NZ will be expanding its Port State Control functions to include checking that foreign ships visiting New Zealand are complying with the applicable provisions of the Maritime Labour Convention. This check will ensure that seafarers, on foreign flag ships that carry cargo to and from New Zealand, are treated fairly and have working and living conditions that meet internationally accepted standards.

The MLC will also apply to New Zealand commercial vessels of 200 gross tonnage or more, which operate beyond inshore limits, but does not include fishing vessels. Around 30 New Zealand ships - such as Cook Strait ferries, coastal tankers and cement vessels, and some larger vessels in the Maritime Operator Safety System MOSS (except fishing vessels) - are required to comply with this convention. Newly built vessels (> 200GT), with a keel laying date after the 9th March 2017, may have to comply with the new Rule 51 - which is the new MLC-compliant crew accommodation requirements.

Current employment and maritime law in New Zealand already satisfies many of the provisions in the Convention in respect to local ships. Much of the benefit to New Zealand will be in regulating minimum working and living conditions for crews on visiting ships from foreign-flagged states, Arthur says.

A further benefit is that operators of New Zealand ships will be able to obtain a Maritime Labour Certificate for their vessel - to enable them, if operating overseas, to easily demonstrate compliance to foreign authorities party to the Convention.

Cooks working on ships will also be able to attain an MLC- compliant ships’ cook qualification, which will be accepted internationally. Recruitment Placement services will also be approved and registered by MNZ.

The Convention will come into force in New Zealand on March 9 next year, along with the Maritime Rule changes required to give effect to the Convention in New Zealand law. For any queries email MLC@maritimenz.govt.nz; or go to:

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