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Mobility and Transport

Employment and working conditions

The EU acquis on labour law, equality, and non-discrimination is substantial for EU workers and has recently become applicable also to seafarers. Furthermore, regarding the working and living conditions on board a ship, there is an additional contribution towards the prevention of accidents caused by human factors. This element being essential in terms of maritime safety, it should be continuously safeguarded and enhanced in accordance with the existing international standards.

Maritime Labour Convention and the European Union

At international level, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has adopted in 2006 the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC-2006) to ensure both decent working and living conditions on board, for all seafarers regardless of their nationality and of the flag of the ships on which they sail, and fairer conditions of competition for operators respectful of rules and often disadvantaged by substandard shipping. It also seeks to limit social dumping to secure fair competition for ship owners who respect seafarers' rights. Amendments to MLC-2006 have been approved at ILO level, tackling issues such as protection of abandoned seafarers, provision of financial security for death or long-term disability of seafarers and establishing binding international law on essential issues for the shipping industry. The EU strongly supports the MLC-2006 and has transposed large parts of the Convention in its legislation despite the fact that it is party neither to ILO nor to the Convention itself. This was achieved through the sectoral social dialogue committee for maritime transport. The social agreement concluded by the European Community Shipowners' Association (ECSA) and the European Transport Workers' Federation (ETF) was implemented into EU Law with Council Directive 2009/13/EC.


EU enforcement instruments

To complement the acquis and to ensure the effective enforcement of these international provisions, two Directives were introduced regarding flag State responsibilities and port State obligations for the Member States: Directive 2013/54/EU on flag State responsibilities for compliance and enforcement of MLC-2006, ensures that the Member States concerned effectively discharge their obligations as flag States with respect to the implementation of the relevant parts of MLC-2006; and Directive 2013/38/EU, amending Directive 2009/16/EC on port State control, obliges Member States to ensure, through their inspection mechanism, that the treatment of ships and its crew, flying the flag of a State which is not a MLC-2006 ratifying is not more favourable than that of a ship, and its crew, of a ship flying the flag of a MLC-2006 ratifying State. These Directives have provided specific regimes for monitoring, compliance and handling of on-board and onshore complaint procedures, depending on whether the state is acting as a port or a flag State.

Directive 2009/13/EC has also amended the specific legislation for seafarers on working time, i.e Directive 1999/63/EC that aimed to protect the health and safety of seafarers by laying down minimum requirements with regard to working time. In parallel, Directive 1999/95/EC aims to improve safety at sea, combat unfair competition from third-country ship owners and protect the health and safety of seafarers on board ships using EU ports.


EU social-specific legislation applicable to seafarers

Additional aspects regarding the employment and working conditions of seafarers working on-board EU flagged vessels fall within the scope of the following Directives:

Moreover, Directive 2015/1794/EU amended the scope of five EU labour law Directives by including seafarers, thus improving their work rights. Therefore, additional EU social law which becomes applicable to seafarers is the following:

Consequently, these inclusions give seafarers the same rights as the employees on-shore. Furthermore, this leads to an enhancement of their living and working conditions, thus increasing the attractiveness of working in the maritime sector in particular for young people. This is important as the number of EU seafarers has been steadily decreasing over the last few years and the sector is threatened with labour shortages. One of the purposes of this social legislation framework is to ensure fairer competition in the shipping sector within the EU because operators would have the same obligations in all EU Member States.