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Maritime Law-What you need to know about the MLC

Given my work on the subject, the Professional Mariner magazine had me guest blog an article on the Maritime Labor Convention ("MLC"). It was incidentally posted on August 20, 2013, the implementation date for the MLC. You can find the complete article here => Professional Mariner Magazine.

I continue to be barraged by questions related to applicability of the MLC in given scenarios. The answer is simple, the MLC will apply to ships of all tonnages, whether publicly or privately owned, which are “ordinarily engaged in commercial activities.” The MLC does not provide a definition for what constitutes this quoted language and there has been some debate in yachting circles as to whether yachts are included. Some flag states have been publishing their narrow interpretation of this language as a way to encourage these vessel owners to change flags. However, this interpretation is not an answer to the “no more favorable treatment” clause which is a principle of the MLC.

So in other words, when port states which have ratified the MLC verify foreign ships’ compliance with the MLC in their ports, the intended system of port state enforcement will allow those ships carrying the MLC Certificate issued by its flag state to avoid inspection, whereas those that do not will be subject to inspection, resulting in possible delays. If the flag state of the vessel is one which has issued a narrow interpretation of the "ordinarily engaged in commercial activities" language, this may cause detention issues. I am not saying that it will. What I am saying is that given the policy of the MLC of “no more favorable treatment” to ensure that ship owners are not able to evade minimum obligations to their seafarers by failing to implement MLC under a non-ratifying flag state, if port state control believe that the vessel is ordinarily engaged in commercial activities, it will be in violation of MLC.

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