Following entry into force of the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC), on 20 August 2013, many wondered how long it would be before member states were seen to take action against shipowners who did not abide by its terms. It seems that the answer was: not long.
According to press reports, a ship was detained in Denmark, on Tuesday 10 September, following an inspection by the Danish Maritime Authority. The routine inspection of the Liberia flagged offshore supply vessel, "OCEAN CARRIER", in Esbjerg, revealed that the crew did not have employment contracts. Both Denmark and Liberia have ratified the Convention, and under Standard A2.1, paragraph 1(c), the MLC requires that the shipowner and the seafarer each have a signed original of the seafarers' employment agreement. The 24 hour detention ended when the situation was rectified.
Canada became the second country to detain a vessel under the MLC this week. It was reported that the vessel, Cyprus-flagged "LIA M", was detained after the Canadian Authorities received complaints from the crew regarding alleged MLC deficiencies which included "unpaid wages, a 'collective bargaining agreement' that lacked the vessel name, a date or a wage scale; crew with no money, no shampoo, toothpaste or other items; a crew member who had twice been refused access to a doctor; and crew members having been forced to sign blank contracts." Both Canada and Cyprus have ratified the Convention.
These early detentions highlight the risk posed by the new power of seafarers to cause delays in port. Delays cost money and someone will bear the brunt of that cost. We would advise owners and operators to consider whether their contractual terms are sufficient to apportion liability for those costs. The detentions also highlight the need for effective onboard complaints procedures to minimise the chances of seafarer complaints being taken ashore to Port State Control by seafarers and their unions.