The Thai Maritime Labour Act of 2015 (the "Act") came into force on April 5 this year, setting out working and living conditions for seafarers on vessels sailing under the Thai flag, in conformity with the Maritime Labour Convention (the "Convention"), 2006, which established minimum requirements for seafarers to work on a ship.
As there are often gaps in the employer-employee relationship between seafarers working on a ship and ship-owners, and seafarers are exposed to certain labor conditions and occupational risks distinct from those of general employees, the Labour Protection Act was deemed inadequate for providing fair and effective protection to seafarers. Thus, it became necessary to promulgate a specific act to guarantee adequate protection for seafarers that meets international standards.
The provisions under this Act apply to ships that normally navigate in seawater for commercial purposes, such as cruise ships. The Act is not applicable to certain types of ships, such as those used for fishing as there already exists a ministerial regulation issued under the Labour Protection Act specifically addressing requirements for sea fishery workers. It remains unclear at this stage if other types of vessels such as vessels used in petroleum businesses like Floating Storage and Offloading fall within the purview of this Act.
Some of the key provisions under this Act are as follows:
- In the case where there is no provision of law to be applied, the principle of conventions of seafarers working on board a ship, customs and traditions of ship navigation or related international terms or standards will apply in accordance with each case.
- Employment between ship owners and seafarers under this Act will not be subject to the law on labor protection, the law on safety, occupational health and working conditions, the law on social security and the law on workmen's compensation. A ship owner shall nevertheless ensure that a seafarer is protected in respect of social security and workmen's compensation in accordance with rules, procedures and conditions prescribed by the Minister of Labour.
- Working conditions on board. A ship owner is prohibited from allowing a person under 16 years of age to work on board a ship and allowing a seafarer under 18 years of age to work at night, unless it is for training purposes, or to carry out work which may be hazardous to the health and safety of a seafarer.
- Recruitment of seafarers. No person can recruit a seafarer to work on board a ship unless is permitted to do so by the Registrar. The act also sets out qualifications for an applicant to recruit a seafarer. An application for permission and issuance of license must follow the rules, procedures and conditions as prescribed in ministerial regulations.
- Employment conditions. An employment agreement of a seafarer must be done in writing and held on board. The Act authorizes the Minister of Labour to prescribe the minimum wage for a seafarer. The Act also sets out hours of work and rest, sick leave, maternity leave and paid annual leave for seafarers. Paid annual leave must not be less than 30 days a year.
- Repatriation. The Act requires a ship owner to arrange or pay for any expenses incurred during the return of a seafarer to his or her domicile as agreed and to provide insurance in relation to the repatriation.
- Damages. A ship owner is required to pay for damages in the event of damage to the ship or a shipwreck.
- Medical care. A ship owner is required to provide a medical care room, equipment and facilities on board and training of doctors and personnel charged with providing medical care.
- On-board complaint procedure. A ship owner is required to ensure that documents with complaint procedures relating to employment conditions and working and living conditions of seafarers are provided to seafarers.
The Act also requires a ship of five hundred gross tonnage or over, engaged in international voyages, to obtain a maritime labor certificate and declaration of maritime labor compliance to certify that labor conditions on board comply with the requirements under this Act. Rules and procedures in the submission of application for maritime labour certificate and declaration of maritime labour compliance, along with time period and their renewal and revocation are to be as prescribed by the Director-General of Marine Department and the Director-General of Department of Labour and Welfare.
As the Act has now become effective, ship owners should take immediate steps to comply with the provisions under this Act to avoid legal liabilities. It should be noted that failure to comply with the duties of directors or persons in charge of the juristic person liable under the Act can result in criminal penalties for them individually in addition to the juristic person.