EU Moves Toward Better Protection of Seafarers

The European Council has adopted a directive which is set to provide seafarers with protection from abandonment at sea. 

The directive, adopted on December 7, gives legal effect to an agreement between the European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA) and the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF), which will bring European rules up-to-date with international best practice, ECSA said.

As a result of the agreement with social partners, amendments to the Maritime Labour Convention made in 2014 can be incorporated into EU law.

The new rules oblige shipowners to provide financial security protecting seafarers against the consequences of abandonment in an overseas port. In addition, this agreement ensures the payment of contractual compensation in the event of the death or long-term disability of a seafarer resulting from an occupational injury, illness or hazard.

Seafarers still face abandonment without pay, being left behind for a long time without access to regular food supplies, medical treatment and without any means to return home.

Thanks to the incorporation of the agreement into EU law, seafarers will be covered by a mandatory financial security system. This will guarantee their subsistence means and a safe return home, the Council said in a statement.

“Our original agreement, which became EU law in 2009, provided the much needed impetus to the worldwide acceptance of the MLC and helped it to enter into force globally. In addition to guaranteeing decent work for seafarers irrespective of their nationality of the flag of their ship, the MLC helps good shipowners by giving flag and port states effective tools to enforce the MLC standards on those ships that fail to conform,” Tim Springett, ECSA spokesperson to the Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee for Maritime Transport (SSDC), said. 

We must not forget that this convention is a living instrument for the continuous improvement of seafarers’ living and working conditions,” ETF spokesperson to the SSDC Mark Dickinson added.

MLC was adopted in 2006 and it was incorporated into EU law by Council directive 2009/13/EC.

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