The Special Tripartite Committee (STC) agreed on 13 May 2022 to a commitment to better social connectivity through internet services for seafarers. The Maritime Labour Convention (2006) (MLC) has been updated to reflect this commitment and added the following under Guideline B3.1.11:
Shipowners should, so far as is reasonably practicable, provide seafarers on board their ships with Internet access, with charges, if any, being reasonable in amount
Another update to the MLC pursuant to guideline B4.4.2 means that Governments are also encouraged to increase internet access in ports and associated anchorages without cost to seafarers.
The International Transport Worker’s Federation (ITF) published these updates amidst positive reaction from within the maritime industry.
By way of background; the MLC is an international treaty geared to protecting seafarer interests. The MLC has been ratified by around hundred countries, who represent over 90% of the global fleet. The Convention’s global presence is amplified because even vessels from non-signatory states that attempt to enter ports of signatory states, can face arrest/penalties for non-compliance with the MLC.
The difficulties being faced by seafarers are well documented. The pandemic and the resulting long periods between shore leaves only added to the physical and the mental stress and fatigue as many seafarers were away from their families and loved for well over 12 months at a time, some for considerably longer. In these circumstances social connectivity through internet services is seen an as effective means of ensuring the wellbeing of the seafarers.
The nautical institute reported that 88% of its members worked on-board vessels with internet access, but only 57% could use it for personal emails and only 34% could use social media. Only a mere 6% were able to use video calling options (considered the best way of keeping in touch with family and friends).
Despite the update to the MLC, the ITF have also expressed disappointment in their report that ship-owners and governments may seek to continue charging seafarers to access the internet services. In order for the MLC updates to transform into basic industry driven norms, implementation of ensuring internet access to all seafarers will also have to start from within the industry.
A copy of all the updates following the 13 May Special Tripartite Committee meeting can be found in the link below.