Ships navigating UK waters could be detained in port if they are found to be failing to comply with a new maritime law which came into effect in the UK on Aug 7, a legal expert has warned.
The Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) is an international agreement which aims to safeguard the employment rights, working conditions and health care of seafarers working across the world.
The Convention applies to seagoing commercial ships and holds shipowners responsible for ensuring seafarers receive basic levels of pay, sick pay, holiday entitlement and medical care. While most UK operators are already compliant with MLC criteria, some vessels navigating through UK waters under other national flags may not adhere to the same standards.
Katie Williams, a shipping and maritime law specialist at Pinsent Masons in Aberdeen, said in such cases the UK’s enforcement body, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), could order the detention of ships docking at UK ports.
She said: “The Maritime Labour Convention consolidates what has been in place in the UK for some years, but now, for the first time, it has an enforcement mechanism with real ‘teeth’. “Many shipping companies and charterers have invested significant time and effort in trying to ensure that they will comply with the new regime, however the MCA will be looking to set down a marker that it intends to rigorously apply the new laws. “It would be a nightmare scenario for a vessel chartered at thousands of pounds a day to be detained in port.” Sixty-three nations have signed up to the MLC and maritime authorities have already ordered detentions in at least 10 cases involving ships in Canada, Denmark, the Russian Federation and Spain, which were sailing under the flags of Cyprus, Liberia, the Netherlands, Panama and Tanzania.
British-flagged vessels could face detention in foreign ports where a complaint has been made by a crew member and local port authorities have taken a different interpretation of the Convention.