The Dutch workboat market is flourishing nationally as well as internationally. The industry is renowned for its reliability and innovative power and the Dutch flag is synonym for quality. At the same time, Dutch workboat users are experiencing problems with the employment of staff on workboats because of the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MCL).
On 20 August 2013 the MCL, more commonly known as the Seafarers Bill of Rights, went into force. The goal of MCL was to create an international treaty that would enhance the working circumstances and conditions of beyond 1.2 million seafarers. These conditions are now included in the Dutch laws and regulations for seafarers and some of them are causing problems for the Dutch workboat users.
The Royal Association of Dutch Ship Owners (KVNR) is taking a stand to adjust the regulations: ”The problem the workboat industry encounters is meeting the requirements the MCL is demanding for the project staff who are working on board, but are not part of the crew. The MCL uses a very broad definition to describe a seafarer: the individual that is performing activities on board the vessel in any capacity. This entails that the staff, who are hired by the company that has chartered the vessel or even their subcontractor, and who will be working at the destination of the vessel, also have to fit the definition and possess the required papers for seafarers.”
Tineke Netelenbos, chairwoman of the KVNR adds: “An example of this issue can be found in the offshore industry, which is a growing market. Such a relatively new sector often does not fit within the existing regulations, which causes problems with permits, certificates etcetera. It is strange that maintenance technicians must meet conditions that are applicable to seafarers.”
The Dutch laws and regulations do not have much room for exceptions in this area. The KVNR is in talks with the Dutch government to work on a National Code for project staff on board workboats, to clarify the exceptions on the MCL definition of a seafarer when it comes to staff. Netelenbos: ”Other countries, that understand the economic importance of this problem, have already developed a code which enables them to easily facilitate this growing market. In the Netherlands, this is unfortunately not the case, causing us to miss opportunities. If the Netherlands wants to remain a maritime nation monitoring, fair competition with neighbouring countries is of importance. In short, we want a responsive government and an adequate policy in the interest of the economy and job growth.”