In the next few weeks, the Malta Flag Administration shall complete the drafting of amendments to the Merchant Shipping (Maritime Labour Convention) Rules (Legal Notice 145 of 2013) which transpose the 2014 Amendments to the Code of the Maritime Labour Convention ( ‘the ILO Amendments’) issued by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). This will ensure better protection to seafarers of Maltese vessels (and their kin) in the case of abandonment, death and long-term disability via the introduction of an expeditious and effective financial security system. The Maltese amendments shall enter into force on 18th January 2017 as provided in the ILO Amendments.

The ILO Amendments propose the addition of ‘Standard A2.5.2’ to the Maritime Labour Convention ( the ‘MLC’), paragraph 2 of which holds that a seafarer shall be deemed to have been abandoned where, in violation of the requirements of the MLC or the terms of the seafarers’ employment agreement, the shipowner fails to cover the cost of the seafarer’s repatriation, or the shipowner has not provided the seafarer with the necessary maintenance and support, or he has otherwise unilaterally severed ties with the seafarer including failure to pay contractual wages for a period of at least two months. To counteract the effects of abandonment, Standard A2.5.2 stipulates that each Member State shall ensure the adoption of a financial security system meeting the requirements of the Amendments for all vessels flying its flag. This system shall provide direct access, sufficient coverage and expedited financial assistance in one of many forms, including social security schemes, insurance, national funds or other similar arrangements. Choice of form shall be determined by the Member State in question after consultation with the shipowners’ and seafarers’ organisations concerned. Moreover, every Member State shall require ships flying its flag to carry on board a certificate or other documentary evidence of financial security issued by the financial security provider.

The assistance provided by the financial security system shall be granted promptly upon request by the seafarer, or his nominated representative, and shall cover outstanding wages and other entitlements under the employment agreement limited to four months of any such outstanding wages or entitlements, all expenses reasonably incurred by the seafarer including the cost of repatriation, and all the essential needs of the seafarer including but not limited to food and accommodation. The provision of financial security shall not cease before the end of its period of validity, except with prior notification of at least one month to the competent authority of the flag State.

The implementation of the ILO Amendments will further underline the ILO’s commitment to guarantee fundamental principles and rights at work, by enabling the persons concerned to claim freely and on the basis of equality of opportunity, a fair share of the wealth which they have helped to generate. The timely transposition of the ILO Amendments into Maltese law ensures that Maltese maritime law retains its position at the forefront of legal developments as they occur. Further reports on this and other maritime related matters will follow.

Co-author: Mr Luke Hili